Cardiac arrest patients' survival chances 'better at specialist units'

Updated: 

Patients who suffer from cardiac arrest should not be taken to their nearest hospital but a specialist centre, a new study suggests.

Those taken to specialist heart centres to treat the condition - which occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body - are more likely to survive, experts found.

Footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup match in 2012.

North Middlesex University Hospital was less than a mile away from White Hart Lane in an ambulance, but the footballer was taken six miles to the London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green.

The former player made a miraculous recovery after his heart stopped beating for more than an hour, and some have said that the decision to take him to the specialist centre saved his life.

Now, a Danish study, published in the European Heart Journal, has backed the comments.

It found that those who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital have a better chance of survival if they are taken immediately to a specialist heart centre rather than to the nearest general hospital.

Researchers analysed data from 41,186 patients who had suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Denmark between 2001 and 2013 - of these, 7,373 patients were admitted directly to an invasive heart centre, while 17,991 were admitted to a local hospital.

A total of 3,550 (9%) patients were still alive 30 days after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The researchers found that compared with other cardiac arrest patients, admission directly to an invasive heart centre was associated with an 11% improvement in the chances of still being alive 30 days after the event.

Patients who received CPR from a bystander were 10% more likely to survive and those who suffered a cardiac arrest in the presence of other people also had better survival odds.

And receiving specialist procedures - coronary angiography and percutaneous coronary intervention - within six hours was linked to a 45% better chance of survival.

Lead researcher Dr Tinne Tranberg, a cardiologist at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, said: "Our results show that among cardiac arrest patients admitted to hospital, those admitted directly to an invasive heart centre have a higher chance of surviving, regardless of the distance."

Commenting on the study, Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "If you have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, your chances of survival improve if you are taken to a specialist heart centre.

"This isn't the first time that research has pointed towards paramedics bypassing local hospitals and heading to one of the UK's specialist heart centres.

"Paramedics make these specialised hospitals the first point of call, providing they are within a reasonable distance.

"The emergency services respond to more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year, but sadly less than one in 10 people survive.

"If you see someone who has suddenly collapsed and is unresponsive, it is vital that you call 999 and start administering CPR without delay to increase their chances of survival."