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Hospital Protocol Change Cuts Kids' Cardiac Arrest Risk

Rate drops by 63% if help is summoned before CPR is needed, study finds

FRIDAY, May 11, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A simple procedural change can greatly cut the risk of cardiac arrest for children in pediatric hospitals who are not in intensive care units, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers found that cardiac arrests among children not in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Children's Medical Center Dallas fell by 63 percent after doctors and nurses began to call the cardiac emergency team whenever they saw warning signs that a patient's heart or lungs might stop working.

Previously, the cardiac emergency team was called only after doctors and nurses had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and after a patient had suffered cardiac arrest.

The findings were expected to be presented May 10 at the American Heart Association's Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in Washington, D.C.

"Our goal was to get patients moving to the PICU and a higher level of care sooner, hoping to prevent an arrest. And if we couldn't prevent it, the arrest could be better controlled in the PICU," study senior author Dr. Tia A. Tortoriello, assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and medical staff member at Children's Medical Center Dallas, said in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues found that the "chronic vent floor" -- where patients are on ventilators -- was the cardiac arrest "hotspot" at Children's Medical Center Dallas.

"Patients may acutely plug their tracheostomy or have significantly increased respiratory issues," and either of these can cause "a respiratory arrest that can progress to a cardiac arrest," Tortoriello said.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about cardiac arrest.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 10, 2007
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