Objective: Only a few patients survive cardiac arrest with favorable neurologic recovery. Our objective was to assess whether induced hypothermia improves neurologic recovery in survivors of primary cardiac arrest.
Data source: Studies were identified by a computerized search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PASCAL, the Cochrane Controlled Trial Register, and BIOSIS.
Study selection: We included randomized and quasi-randomized, controlled trials of adults who were successfully resuscitated, where therapeutic hypothermia was applied within 6 hrs after arrival at the emergency department and where the neurologic outcome was compared. We excluded studies without a control group and studies with historical controls.
Data extraction: All authors of the identified trials supplied individual patient data with a predefined set of variables.
Data synthesis: We identified three randomized trials. The analyses were conducted according to the intention-to-treat principle. Summary odds ratios were calculated using a random effects model and translated into risk ratios. More patients in the hypothermia group were discharged with favorable neurologic recovery (risk ratio, 1.68; 95% confidence interval, 1.29-2.07). The 95% confidence interval of the number-needed-to-treat to allow one additional patient to leave the hospital with favorable neurologic recovery was 4-13. One study followed patients to 6 months or death. Being alive at 6 months with favorable functional neurologic recovery was more likely in the hypothermia group (risk ratio, 1.44; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-1.76).
Conclusions: Mild therapeutic hypothermia improves short-term neurologic recovery and survival in patients resuscitated from cardiac arrest of presumed cardiac origin. Its long-term effectiveness and feasibility at an organizational level need further research.