Closing the cardiac arrest survival gap

By: David Pedersen

Cardiac arrest—when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating—is fairly common among hospitalized patients, affecting approximately 200,000 patients in the U.S. each year.

Historically, the likelihood of surviving an in-hospital cardiac arrest was low—roughly one in eight patients would live long enough to be discharged. Among black patients, the survival rate was even lower than that of white patients, according to previous research.

Over the past 15 years, however, survival of in-hospital cardiac arrest has improved considerably, particularly at hospitals participating in a nationwide evidence-based quality improvement program called Get With the Guidelines–Resuscitation, established by the American Heart Association (AHA). And as overall patient survival has improved, differences in the survival rates among black and white patients have narrowed as well, according to a new study led by University of Iowa Health Care researchers.

“Racial disparities in health care in general, and with in-hospital cardiac arrest in particular, have been well documented in the medical literature,” says Lee Joseph, postdoctoral research fellow in cardiovascular disease in the UI Department of Internal Medicine and lead author of the study published in the Aug. 9 issue of JAMA Cardiology. “But as overall survival of in-hospital cardiac arrest improved over the past decade or so, it raised the question: Are these improvements benefitting black and white patients equally?”

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