Study objective: To assess outcome in patients with ventricular fibrillation (VF) treated by defibrillator-equipped police and emergency medical technician-paramedics in an advanced life support (ALS) emergency medical services (EMS) system.
Methods: We carried out a retrospective observational outcome study of all consecutive adult patients with atraumatic cardiac arrest treated from November 1990 through July 1995. The study was carried out in a city with a population of 76,865 in an area of 32.6 square miles. Central 911 dispatched police and an ALS ambulance simultaneously. Accurate intervals were obtained with the synchronization of all defibrillator clocks with the 911 dispatch clock. The personnel who arrived first delivered the initial shock. After shocks delivered by police, paramedics provided additional treatment if needed. Main outcome measures were time elapsed before delivery of the first shock, restoration of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), and survival to discharge home.
Results: Of 84 patients, 31 (37%) were first shocked by police. Thirteen of the 31 demonstrated ROSC, without need for ALS treatment. All 13 survived to discharge. The other 18 patients required ALS; 5 (27.7%) survived. Among the 53 patients first shocked by paramedics, 15 had ROSC after shocks only, and 14 survived. The other 38 needed ALS treatment; 9 survived. Call-to-shock time for all patients was less in the police group than in the paramedic group (5.6 versus 6.3 minutes, P = .038). For all patients, call-to-shock time was less in those with ROSC after shocks only than in those who needed ALS (5.4 versus 6.3 minutes, P = .011). Survival to discharge was 49% (41 of 84), with 18 of 31 (58%) in the police group and 23 of 53 (43%) in the paramedic group. Call-to-shock time for survivors was 5.8 minutes; it was 6.4 minutes for the nonsurvivors (P = .020). Neither ROSC nor discharge survival was significantly different between police and paramedic-shocked patients. ROSC after initial shock and call-to-shock time were major determinants of survival, whether the first shocks were administered by police or by paramedics. With ROSC after shocks only, 27 of 28 (96%) survived, whereas 14 of 56 (25%) needing ALS survived (P < .001).
Conclusion: A high discharge-to-home survival rate was obtained with early defibrillation by both police and paramedics. When shocks resulted in ROSC, the overwhelming majority of patients survived (96%). Even brief time decreases (eg. 1 minute) in call-to-shock time increase the likelihood of ROSC from shocks only, with a consequent decrease in the need for ALS intervention. Short call-to-shock time and ROSC response to shocks only are major determinants of a high rate of survival after VF.