Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation with Automated External Defibrillator in the Austrian Mountains: A Retrospective Study

High Alt Med Biol. 2019 Dec;20(4):392-398. doi: 10.1089/ham.2018.0134. Epub 2019 Oct 16.


Background: Few data exist on the likelihood of surviving sudden cardiac arrest in the mountains. The aim of this study was to analyze the epidemiology and outcomes of patients suffering sudden cardiac arrest and undergoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with automated external defibrillator (AED) in the Austrian mountains. Materials and Methods: We analyzed all cardiac arrest cases in the Austrian mountains reported in the nationwide Austrian Alpine Police database from October 26, 2005, to December 31, 2015. To obtain information on outcomes, these patient data were manually merged with patient data from the main Austrian referral center for mountain emergencies, Innsbruck Medical University Hospital. Results: Overall, 781 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in the Austrian mountains were recorded. In 136 cases (17%), CPR with AED was attempted. The most frequent activities at the time of sudden cardiac arrest were hiking (n = 63, 46%) and skiing or snowboarding (n = 44, 32%). In the nationwide Austrian Alpine Police database, only 4 (3%) patients survived, whereas in the Innsbruck Medical University Hospital database, there were seven survivors who received CPR and AED. All survivors had received immediate CPR with an AED. Five patients had good neurological outcome (cerebral performance category 1-2). Conclusions: In the Austrian mountains, CPR was attempted in less than 20% of sudden cardiac arrest cases. The few that survived had received immediate CPR with an AED. To better understand the circumstances and outcome of sudden cardiac arrest in the mountains, out-of hospital and in-hospital data should be linked.

Keywords: cardiac arrest; cardiopulmonary resuscitation; defibrillation; emergency medicine; mountain medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Altitude Sickness / mortality*
  • Altitude Sickness / therapy
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / instrumentation
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / mortality*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Defibrillators / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mountaineering / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skiing / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult