MONDAY, July 30, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A regional system of improved care for cardiac arrest patients in Japan reduced the risk of death and the number of survivors who suffered brain damage, a new study finds.
An advanced post-cardiac arrest care system implemented in the Aizu region in 2009 included emergency medical services taking patients directly to hospitals specializing in advanced care or from an outlying hospital to a specialty hospital after a patient's heartbeat was restored.
Researchers compared data on patients who suffered cardiac arrest before and after the regional system was established and found that survival to discharge increased from 2.3 percent to 4.2 percent.
One month after cardiac arrest, favorable neurologic results were seen in 51 percent of survivors after the new system was introduced, compared with 19 percent before.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when an abnormal heart rhythm causes the heart to stop beating.
The study was published July 30 in the journal Circulation.
"Although there were concerns that the proportion of survivors with severe neurologic disability would increase, this did not occur," lead author Dr. Takashi Tagami, an assistant professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, said in a journal news release.
The advanced care system in the study includes therapeutic hypothermia (cooling of the body), appropriate fluids, cardiovascular medications, respiratory management and procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention to open blocked arteries.
The American Heart Association refers to this group of treatments as the "fifth link" in what it called the Chain of Survival for sudden cardiac arrest.
"These findings suggest that the 'fifth link' is associated with an increase in survival rate as well as improvement of quality of life among survivors," Tagami said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sudden cardiac arrest.