Background: There is little evidence from clinical trials that the use of adrenaline (epinephrine) in treating cardiac arrest improves survival, despite adrenaline being considered standard of care for many decades. The aim of our study was to determine the effect of adrenaline on patient survival to hospital discharge in out of hospital cardiac arrest.
Methods: We conducted a double blind randomised placebo-controlled trial of adrenaline in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Identical study vials containing either adrenaline 1:1000 or placebo (sodium chloride 0.9%) were prepared. Patients were randomly allocated to receive 1 ml aliquots of the trial drug according to current advanced life support guidelines. Outcomes assessed included survival to hospital discharge (primary outcome), pre-hospital return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) and neurological outcome (Cerebral Performance Category Score - CPC).
Results: A total of 4103 cardiac arrests were screened during the study period of which 601 underwent randomisation. Documentation was available for a total of 534 patients: 262 in the placebo group and 272 in the adrenaline group. Groups were well matched for baseline characteristics including age, gender and receiving bystander CPR. ROSC occurred in 22 (8.4%) of patients receiving placebo and 64 (23.5%) who received adrenaline (OR=3.4; 95% CI 2.0-5.6). Survival to hospital discharge occurred in 5 (1.9%) and 11 (4.0%) patients receiving placebo or adrenaline respectively (OR=2.2; 95% CI 0.7-6.3). All but two patients (both in the adrenaline group) had a CPC score of 1-2.
Conclusion: Patients receiving adrenaline during cardiac arrest had no statistically significant improvement in the primary outcome of survival to hospital discharge although there was a significantly improved likelihood of achieving ROSC.
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