Outcome of out-of-hospital cardiac or respiratory arrest in children

N Engl J Med. 1996 Nov 14;335(20):1473-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199611143352001.


Background: Among adults who have a cardiac arrest outside the hospital, the survival rate is known to be poor. However, less information is available on out-of-hospital cardiac arrest among children. This study was performed to determine the survival rate among children after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and to identify predictors of survival.

Methods: We reviewed the records of 101 children (median age, two years) with apnea or no palpable pulse (or both) who presented to the emergency department at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The characteristics of the patients and the outcomes of illness were analyzed. We assessed the functional outcome of the survivors using the Pediatric Cerebral and Overall Performance Category scores.

Results: Overall, there was a return of vital signs in 64 of the 101 patients; 15 survived to discharge from the hospital, and 13 were alive 12 months after discharge. Factors that predicted survival to hospital discharge included a short interval between the arrest and arrival at the hospital, a palpable pulse on presentation, a short duration of resuscitation in the emergency department, and the administration of fewer doses of epinephrine in the emergency department. No patients who required more than two doses of epinephrine or resuscitation for longer than 20 minutes in the emergency department survived to hospital discharge. The survivors who were neurologically normal after arrest had had a respiratory arrest only and were resuscitated within five minutes after arrival in the emergency department. Of the 80 patients who had had a cardiac arrest, only 6 survived to hospital discharge, and all had neurologic sequelae.

Conclusions: These results suggest that out-of-hospital cardiac arrest among children has a very poor prognosis, especially when efforts at resuscitation continue for longer than 20 minutes and require more than two doses of epinephrine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use
  • Heart Arrest / mortality*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors


  • Epinephrine