Up to 44% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) patients will rearrest in the immediate post-return of spontaneous circulation (post-ROSC) period, and rearrest is associated with decreased survival. Cardiac arrest guidelines are often equivocal regarding what post-ROSC care should be provided in the prehospital setting and when hospital transport should be initiated. Prehospital protocols must balance the benefit of time-dependent hospital-based care with the risk of early rearrest. We sought to describe current prehospital protocols for post-ROSC care in the treatment of OHCA.
A single trained abstractor systematically reviewed a purposeful sample of prehospital protocols for adult non-traumatic cardiac arrest from the United States using an standardized data abstraction form. Protocols were either stand-alone or integrated into intra-arrest care. Exclusion criteria were non-911 ground transport agencies and protocols not revised since the 2015 American Heart Association guideline update. All protocols were publicly available via the Internet. Data abstraction was conducted in May 2019. Measures of interest were counted and summarized. Proportions and 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
We identified and reviewed 82 prehospital protocols from 46 states and the District of Columbia. Seven protocols were excluded due to the revision date, leaving 75 protocols included in the study. Six protocols (8%; CI 3.7%-16%) provide no guidance on prehospital post-ROSC care. 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) acquisition (63/75 [84%; CI 73%-91%]) and transport to percutaneous coronary intervention-capable hospitals (55/75 [73%; CI 62%-83%]) are common, although not ubiquitous. Of those that do require a 12-lead ECG, 40% [CI 27-54%] required the presence of an ST-elevation myocardial infarction to inform their transport decision. Only 9 (12%; CI 6.4%-22%) provide any guidance on when to initiate transport post-ROSC, with 4 (5%; CI 2%-13%) requiring a post-ROSC stabilization period prior to transport.
Prehospital treatment and transport protocols for post-ROSC care are highly variable across the United States.