Aims: To describe the epidemiology, resuscitation factors and prognosis among a consecutive population of patients suffering from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) where pulseless electrical activity (PEA) was the first arrhythmia recorded on emergency medical services (EMS) arrival.
Methods: Analysis of data collected prospectively on all patients regardless of age succumbing to OHCA during 1980-1997 in the community of Gothenburg where EMS initiated resuscitative measures.
Results: 4662 patients with OHCA were attended by the EMS during the study period. Of these, 1069 (23%) were judged as having PEA as the first recorded arrhythmia; 158 (15%) of these were admitted alive to hospital and 26 (2.4%) were discharged alive. Survivors to discharge had a significantly larger share of bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (28 vs. 8%, P=0.008), significantly higher levels of consciousness (8% awake vs. 0%, P<0.001) and higher median systolic blood pressure (145 vs. 106 mmHg, P<0.001) on arrival at hospital. No patient with unwitnessed cardiac arrest and PEA over 80 years old survived.
Conclusion: Survival among patients suffering from OHCA and PEA is poor, especially among the elderly unwitnessed cases and those who do not receive bystander CPR. The latter seems to be of utmost importance among these patients.