Outcome of avalanche victims with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

Resuscitation. 2015 Apr:89:114-8. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2015.01.019. Epub 2015 Jan 25.


Study background: Previous studies focused on the outcome of avalanche victims with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) after long duration of burial (>35min); the outcome of victims with short duration (≤35min) remains obscure.

Aim of the study: To investigate outcome of avalanche victims with OHCA.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of avalanche victims with OHCA between 2008 and 2013 in the Tyrolean Alps.

Results: 55 avalanche victims were identified, 32 of whom were declared dead after extrication without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), all with long duration of burial. In the remaining 23 CPR was initiated at scene; three were partially and 20 completely buried, nine of whom suffered short and 11 long duration of burial. All nine victims with short duration of burial underwent restoration of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) at scene, four of them after bystander CPR, five after advanced life support by the emergency physician. Two patients with ROSC after short duration of burial and bystander CPR survived to hospital discharge with cerebral performance category 1. None of the 11 victims with long duration of burial survived to hospital discharge, although six were transported to hospital with ongoing CPR and three were supported with extracorporeal circulation.

Conclusions: In this case series survival with favourable neurological outcome was observed in avalanche victims with short duration of burial only if bystander CPR was immediately performed and ROSC achieved. Strategies for reducing avalanche mortality should focus on prompt extrication from the snow and immediate bystander CPR by uninjured companions.

Keywords: Asphyxia; Avalanche; Bystander; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Outcome.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Avalanches / mortality*
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Extracorporeal Circulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / mortality*
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Time-to-Treatment