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Relatively rare adverse events, such as unexpected cardiac arrest, are difficult to study in the clinical setting. These events are often unpredictable in their occurrence (prompting interest in their investigation) and do not occur with sufficient frequency in any single institution to provide an adequate sample for analysis. A disease-specific registry is an epidemiological technique that can be used to collect data on a set of relatively rare unpredictable events. This approach was adopted for investigation of cardiac arrest in children when it became apparent from analysis of malpractice claims that a significant clinical problem existed. This report provides a brief historical account of the development of the Pediatric Peri-Operative Cardiac Arrest (POCA) Registry and elaborates on the methodology including strengths, weaknesses, and practical implementation issues.