The purpose of this study was to assess whether plasma adrenocorticotropin, cortisol, vasopressin, and renin concentrations are higher in resuscitated than in nonresuscitated patients during cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and whether there are possible correlations between these hormones and blood pressure or heart rate in the immediate postresuscitation phase. Of 34 consecutive patients (36-85 yr of age) with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, 20 could be successfully resuscitated and admitted to hospital, whereas in the remaining 14 patients restoration of spontaneous circulation could not be achieved. During cardiopulmonary resuscitation, median adrenocorticotropin, cortisol, vasopressin, and renin concentrations in the external jugular vein were 237 pg/ml, 32.6 micrograms/dl, 122 pg/ml, and 46.5 ng/l, respectively, in resuscitated patients, and 45 pg/ml (P = 0.018), 18.4 micrograms/dl (P = 0.481), 88 pg/ml (P = 0.049), and 11 ng/l (P = 0.017), respectively, in nonresuscitated patients. Median adrenocorticotropin, cortisol, vasopressin, and renin concentrations were 101 pg/ml, 34.6 micrograms/dl, 22 pg/ml, and 25 ng/l, respectively, 60 min after successful resuscitation. No significant correlations were found between hormone levels and blood pressure or heart rate, but there was a significant negative correlation between the interval from collapse to the start of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and plasma cortisol concentrations during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (Spearman rank correlation coefficient = -0.967, P less than 0.001), indicating an impaired cortisol release from the adrenal cortex. The lower hormone concentrations of the nonresuscitated patients measured during cardiopulmonary resuscitation might indicate an impairment in neuroendocrine response.