Emergency medical service treated out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: Identification of weak links in the chain-of-survival through an epidemiological study

Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2016 Aug;15(5):328-36. doi: 10.1177/1474515115573365. Epub 2015 Feb 12.


Background: In-depth analysis of emergency medical services (EMSs) performances in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) promotes quality improvement.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to identify the improvable factors of the EMS response to OHCA through the description and analysis of OHCA incidence, characteristics, management and outcome.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study on all OHCA patients treated by the EMSs of the district of Trieste, Italy (236,556 inhabitants) in 2011.

Results: A total of 678 OHCAs occurred and 142 (20.1%) underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), with a respective incidence of 287/100,000/year and 60/100,000/year. The incidence of shockable rhythms in the CPR group was 13/100,000. OHCAs occurred mainly during daytime, though the proportion of patients receiving CPR was significantly higher by night-time (p=0.01). Thirty-four CPR patients (23.9%) restored spontaneous circulation on scene; 12 (8.5%) survived to hospital discharge (11 with good neurological recovery). Survival was not correlated with age, while was significantly higher for patients with shockable rhythms (32.3%; p<0.001). Mean response time was 8 min. Direct intervention of physician-staffed units did not improve the outcome when compared with two-tiered activation. Patients immediately identified as OHCA by dispatch nurses and those undergoing therapeutic hypothermia showed a non-significant trend towards improved survival (p=0.09 and 0.07, respectively).

Conclusions: OHCA identification by dispatch nurses and reduction of response time were the factors most susceptible to improvement.

Keywords: Cardiac arrest; dispatch; emergency medical service; out-of-hospital; outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / mortality
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies