Study objective: To describe the epidemiology of cardiac arrest in young adults and to determine if there are characteristics unique to this group in terms of etiology, rhythm, and outcome.
Design: Retrospective, case review.
Setting: King County, Washington.
Type of participants: All out-of-hospital victims of cardiac arrest who received emergency aid.
Measurements: The etiology, cardiac rhythm, and outcome were identified for each case.
Main results: During the 13-year period from 1976 to 1989, there were 8,054 cardiac arrests; 252 of these were among young adults 18 to 35 years of age. Of those 252 cases, 61 (24%) were caused by ischemic heart disease, and 60 (24%) were caused by overdose. Asystole was the most common rhythm (48%), followed by ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia (31%). Long-term survival following these rhythms was 4% and 28%, respectively. In terms of age, etiology, and rhythm, young adults appear to represent a transitional group between children and older adults. There were no unique characteristics specific to young adults. Long-term survival is dependent more on rhythm than on age.
Conclusion: In terms of age, etiology, and rhythm, young adults appear to represent a transitional group between children and older adults.