Aim: To carry out a prospective study of cardiac arrest survivors to understand the qualitative features as well as incidence, and possible aetiology of near death experiences (NDEs) in this group of patients.
Method: All survivors of cardiac arrests during a 1 year period were interviewed within a week of their arrest, regarding memories of their unconscious period. Reported memories were assessed by the Greyson NDE Scale. The postulated role of physiological, psychological and transcendental factors were studied. Physiological parameters such as oxygen status were extracted from the medical notes. Patients' religious convictions were documented in the interviews and hidden targets were used to test the transcendental theories on potential out of body claims. Those with memories were compared to those without memories.
Results: 11.1% of 63 survivors reported memories. The majority had NDE features. There appeared to be no differences on all physiological measured parameters apart from partial pressure of oxygen during the arrest which was higher in the NDE group.
Conclusions: Memories are rare after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. The majority of those that are reported have features of NDE and are pleasant. The occurrence of NDE during cardiac arrest raises questions about the possible relationship between the mind and the brain. Further large-scale studies are needed to understand the aetiology and true significance of NDE.