The epidemiology of out-of-hospital 'sudden' cardiac arrest

Resuscitation. 2002 Mar;52(3):235-45. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9572(01)00464-6.


It is difficult to assemble data from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest since there is often lack of objective information. The true incidence of sudden cardiac death out-of-hospital is not known since far from all of these patients are attended by emergency medical services. The incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest increases with age and is more common among men. Among patients who die, the probability of having a fatal event outside hospital decreases with age; i. e. younger patients tend to more often die unexpectedly and outside hospital. Among the different initial arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation is the most common among patients with cardiac aetiology. The true distribution of initial arrhythmias is not known since several minutes most often elapse between collapse and rhythm assessment. Most patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have a cardiac aetiology. Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests most frequently occur in the patient's home, but the prognosis is shown to be better when they occur in a public place. Witnessed arrest, ventricular fibrillation as initial arrhythmia and cardiopulmonary resuscitation are important predictors for immediate survival. In the long-term perspective, cardiac arrest in connection with acute myocardial infarction, high left ventricular ejection fraction, moderate age, absence of other heart failure signs and no history of myocardial infarction promotes better prognosis. Still there is much to learn about time trends, the influence of patient characteristics, comorbidity and hospital treatment among patients with prehospital cardiac arrest.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / complications
  • Heart Arrest / epidemiology*
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Heart Arrest / mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / complications