Postresuscitation disease after cardiac arrest: a sepsis-like syndrome?

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2004 Jun;10(3):208-12. doi: 10.1097/01.ccx.0000126090.06275.fe.


Purpose of review: Despite advances in cardiac arrest resuscitation, neurologic impairments and other organ dysfunctions cause considerable mortality and morbidity after restoration of spontaneous cardiac activity. The mechanisms underlying this postresuscitation disease probably involve a whole-body ischemia and reperfusion syndrome that triggers a systemic inflammatory response.

Recent findings: Postresuscitation disease is characterized by high levels of circulating cytokines and adhesion molecules, the presence of plasma endotoxin, and dysregulated leukocyte production of cytokines: a profile similar to that seen in severe sepsis. Transient myocardial dysfunction can occur after resuscitation, mainly as a result of myocardial stunning. However, early successful angioplasty is independently associated with better outcomes after cardiac arrest associated with myocardial infarction. Coagulation abnormalities occur consistently after successful resuscitation, and their severity is associated with mortality. For example, plasma protein C and S activities after successful resuscitation are lower in nonsurvivors than in survivors. Low baseline cortisol levels may be associated with an increased risk of fatal early refractory shock after cardiac arrest, suggesting adrenal dysfunction in these patients.

Summary: Postresuscitation abnormalities after cardiac arrest mimic the immunologic and coagulation disorders observed in severe sepsis. This suggests that therapeutic approaches used recently with success in severe sepsis should be investigated in patients successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / physiopathology
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / complications*
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Heart Arrest / complications*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Reperfusion Injury / complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / etiology*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / therapy


  • Cytokines