Background: Survival after cardiac arrest occurring outside the hospital averages less than 3 percent. Unfortunately, the outcome of prolonged resuscitative attempts cannot be predicted. End-tidal carbon dioxide levels reflect cardiac output during cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We prospectively determined whether death could be predicted by monitoring end-tidal carbon dioxide during resuscitation after cardiac arrest.
Methods: We performed a prospective observational study in 150 consecutive victims of cardiac arrest outside the hospital who had electrical activity but no pulse. The patients were intubated and evaluated by mainstream end-tidal carbon dioxide monitoring. Our hypothesis was that an end-tidal carbon dioxide level of 10 mm Hg or less after 20 minutes of standard advanced cardiac life support would predict death.
Results: There was no difference in the mean age or initial end-tidal carbon dioxide level between patients who survived to hospital admission (survivors) and those who did not (nonsurvivors). After 20 minutes of advanced cardiac life support, end-tidal carbon dioxide (+/-SD) averaged 4.4+/-2.9 mm Hg in nonsurvivors and 32.8+/-7.4 mm Hg in survivors (P< 0.001). A 20-minute end-tidal carbon dioxide value of 10 mm Hg or less successfully discriminated between the 35 patients who survived to hospital admission and the 115 nonsurvivors. When a 20-minute end-tidal carbon dioxide value of 10 mm Hg or less was used as a screening test to predict death, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were all 100 percent.
Conclusions: An end-tidal carbon dioxide level of 10 mm Hg or less measured 20 minutes after the initiation of advanced cardiac life support accurately predicts death in patients with cardiac arrest associated with electrical activity but no pulse. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation may reasonably be terminated in such patients.