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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Antiarrhythmic Drugs Found Beneficial When Used by EMS for Cardiac Arrest

Researchers have confirmed that certain heart rhythm medications, when given by paramedics to patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest who had failed electric shock treatment, improved likelihood of patients surviving transport to the hospital. The study was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine and helps answer a longstanding scientific question about the effectiveness of two widely used antiarrhythmic drugs, amiodarone and lidocaine, for treating sudden cardiac arrest.

The study followed the patients from hospital admission to hospital discharge. Although neither drug significantly improved the overall rate of survival to hospital discharge, amiodarone showed a favorable trend in that direction. Survival to discharge is the point at which a patient is discharged from the hospital.

“This trial shows that amiodarone and lidocaine offer hope for bringing patients back to life and into the hospital after cardiac arrest,” said principal study author Dr. Peter Kudenchuk of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. “While the overall increase in survival to hospital discharge of about 3 percent with amiodarone was not statistically significant, it came very close. Importantly, there was a significant improvement in survival to hospital discharge with either drug when the cardiac arrest was bystander-witnessed.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly or unexpectedly stops beating, cutting off blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. A bystander-witnessed cardiac arrest is one that is witnessed by another person.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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