Cognitive impairment in survivors of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

Am Heart J. 2004 Sep;148(3):416-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2004.01.031.


Background: The huge importance of rapid provision of care, especially early defibrillation, for survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is well known. This prospective cohort study investigated cognitive functioning of OHCA survivors in relation to the time-related elements of the resuscitation.

Methods: Fifty-seven consecutive survivors, from a cohort of 308 witnessed OHCA patients with ventricular fibrillation as the initial rhythm, underwent extensive neuropsychologic examination, including tests of memory, attention, and executive functioning, 6 months after the resuscitation. Time-related aspects of the resuscitation were collected on scene. Cognitive functioning was studied in relation to the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) prior to ambulance arrival, and time from collapse to start of CPR, defibrillation, and return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC).

Results: Depending of the test, between 11% and 28% of survivors were cognitively impaired, while 58% scored unimpaired for all tests. Daily life activities were limited in 19% of the patients. Patients who received CPR prior to arrival of the ambulance showed a trend towards overall better cognitive functioning and significant better immediate memory and visuomotor tracking (P =.03 and P <.01). We found a weak correlation between the time to CPR, time to defibrillation, or time to ROSC and cognitive functioning.

Conclusions: The majority of survivors of OHCA with ventricular fibrillation as the initial rhythm are cognitively unimpaired. Long delays to ROSC are compatible with good cognitive outcome. Initiation and cessation of resuscitation efforts should not be based on the duration of circulatory arrest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / complications*
  • Heart Arrest / psychology
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survivors
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / complications*