Background: About half of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survivors experience secondary anoxic brain damage. Neurological outcome can be influenced by rehabilitative treatment approaches, but the nature and severity of persistent disabilities remain unclear. The aim of the study was to explore persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms, global function and life situation of these patients, and to evaluate quality of life in families.
Methods: 25 months after inpatient rehabilitation, 12 individuals (mean age=51 years; ten M: two F) attended a cross-sectional interdisciplinary follow-up assessment with their carers. Function was investigated by clinical rating scales, neuropsychological standard tests, and clinical psychological inventories. Family members were asked about quality of life and satisfaction with social support.
Results: All patients had deficits in at least one or more cognitive areas such as orientation, memory, alertness, and awareness. Three different clinical syndromes were observed: very severe intellectual and physical impairment, (two), mild to moderate dementia, (five), and amnesic syndrome, (five). Prevalence of multiple disabilities, was high. A striking discrepancy was found between self and proxy rating of disabilities (P<0.01). Family members faced dramatically altered life situations after CA; 60% of spouses suffered from psychosomatic problems, 50% complained of lack of social support.
Conclusion: Despite optimal in-hospital treatment, severe anoxic brain damage resulted in permanent cognitive decline, impaired awareness and self care ability. Families felt isolated, and more than half need more support to prevent burn out.