Putting Class IIb Recommendations to the Test: The Influence of Unwitnessed and Non-VT/VF Arrests on Resource Consumption and Outcomes in Therapeutic Hypothermia and Targeted Temperature Management

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Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) and targeted temperature management improve neurologic recovery, and survival for patients resuscitated from witnessed out-of-hospital ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF) cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association recently gave a class IIb recommendation for the use of TH for non-VT/VF and unwitnessed arrests. We explored changes in baseline characteristics, resource use, and outcomes after expanding indications for TH at our institution based on these guidelines. Fifty-six consecutive patients treated with TH for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest were retrospectively evaluated based on whether they received treatment before (protocol 1) or after (protocol 2) broadening inclusion criteria. In protocol 1, TH was indicated after a witnessed VT/VF arrest. In protocol 2, TH was indicated for unwitnessed arrests, pulseless electrical activity, or asystole. Both populations undergoing TH had similarly extensive medical comorbidities and consumed considerable hospital resources. Overall, 64% of the patients from both protocols died in the hospital, although nominally lower mortality was seen in patients treated under protocol 1 compared with protocol 2 (59% vs. 67%, P = 0.57). Lower mortality was observed after VT/VF than after pulseless electrical activity or asystole (47% vs. 93% vs. 56%, P = 0.017). No patient survived following an unwitnessed arrest, and age (odds ratio per 10 years = 2.59; 95% confidence interval, 1.34–4.81) was independently associated with increased mortality. In an evolving field where best practice is still poorly defined, these data, along with future prospective studies in larger populations, should help to enhance care delivery and optimize cost-effectiveness strategies.

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