Spring 2021

Changing the standard of care for cardiac arrest

Hospitals worldwide are rethinking how they care for people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest, thanks to a new U of M–led study

Hospital systems worldwide are rethinking how they care for people who suffer cardiac arrest, thanks to results from a recent clinical study led by the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Specially equipped vehicles transport lifesaving ECMO equipment to help those who suffer cardiac arrest get the medical support they need faster.

Professor of cardiology Demetri Yannopoulos, M.D., and his colleagues showed a six times higher survival rate for patients who received prompt life support via extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, after their hearts stopped versus those who did not receive ECMO. ECMO takes over the work of the heart and lungs, pumping oxygenated blood through the body.

“ECMO proved to be so much more effective that the trial was stopped early,” says Yannopoulos, who holds the Robert K. Eddy Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Resuscitation. “It was deemed unethical to continue randomizing patients into the standard treatment group.”

Nationwide survival rates for people who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital are notoriously poor, hovering around 10%. In this study, when ECMO was used as part of the patient’s care, six of 14 patients (43%) survived to hospital discharge compared with just one of 15 patients (6.7%) who received the standard treatment alone. 

Six months after they left the hospital, all patients who received ECMO were still alive. The one survivor from the standard treatment group died two months after discharge.

ECMO isn’t the only reason behind the dramatic difference, Yannopoulos adds.

“It’s the team program we built around using ECMO,” he says, an effort that was supported by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. “We developed protocols for emergency medical services to quickly identify patients who need ECMO and created avenues for rapid communication with an ECMO center to mobilize help.”

Find out how your gift can support this work by contacting Michelle Boe of the University of Minnesota Foundation at 612-625-9903 or maboe@umn.edu.