Randomized clinical study of thiopental loading in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest

N Engl J Med. 1986 Feb 13;314(7):397-403. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198602133140701.


After restoration of spontaneous circulation and adequate oxygenation, 262 comatose survivors of cardiac arrest were randomly assigned to receive standard brain-oriented intensive care or the same standard therapy plus a single intravenous loading dose of thiopental (30 mg per kilogram of body weight). The study was designed to have an 80 percent probability of detecting a 20 percent reduction in the incidence of permanent postischemic cerebral dysfunction. Base-line characteristics were similar in the two treatment groups. At the end of one year of follow-up, there was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in the proportion of patients who died (77 percent of the thiopental vs. 80 percent of the standard-therapy group), survived with "good" cerebral recovery (20 percent of the thiopental vs. 15 percent of the standard-therapy group), or survived with permanent severe neurologic damage (2 percent of the thiopental vs. 5 percent of the standard-therapy group). The results of this study do not support the use of thiopental for brain resuscitation after cardiac arrest.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / prevention & control*
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coma / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Arrest / complications
  • Heart Arrest / drug therapy*
  • Heart Arrest / mortality
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Random Allocation
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Thiopental / administration & dosage
  • Thiopental / therapeutic use*


  • Thiopental