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More Than 200,000 Suffer Cardiac Arrest in Hospitals Annually

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- More than 200,000 people are treated for cardiac arrest in U.S. hospitals every year, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine warned that rate may be on the rise.

The study, reported online June 24 in Critical Care Medicine, found that 21 percent of patients who suffer in-hospital cardiac arrest survive. That's much better than the less than 10 percent who typically survive cardiac arrest in other settings.

Yet the study's authors said more could be done to improve survival, including preventing cardiac arrest through more effective patient monitoring; administering CPR and defibrillation to restart the heart more quickly; and better adherence to resuscitation guidelines.

In cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating and the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain and vital organs ceases. Death typically occurs within moments without chest compressions to get the blood circulating again and defibrillation, which delivers electrical shocks that can essentially jump-start the heart muscle.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, although a heart attack -- often caused by a blockage in an artery that interferes with blood flow to the heart -- can lead to cardiac arrest.

"Our study proves that cardiac arrest represents a tremendous problem for hospitals in the United States," said the study's lead author, Dr. Raina M. Merchant, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, in a university news release.

"Until now, we could only guess about how many patients were suffering these events," Merchant added. "These numbers finally provide us with a roadmap for improving allocation of resources to care for these critically ill patients and further our study of ways to identify patients who are at risk of cardiac arrest in the hospital and improve survival."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on cardiac arrest.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, news release, June 24, 2011

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