Nearly 6 in 10 people who suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest sought medical help in the previous two weeks, a new study finds.
Cardiac arrest is fatal within minutes if untreated, and less than 10% of victims survive.
“The high mortality from cardiac arrest in the community emphasizes the need to identify those at risk,” said study author Dr. Nertila Zylyftari, of Copenhagen University Hospital Herlev and Gentofte in Hellerup, Denmark.
“This is very challenging since these are considered sudden and unexpected events. But our study indicates that patients felt unwell in the days leading up to the cardiac arrest,” Zylyftari said in a European Society of Cardiology news release.
The researchers analyzed nearly 29,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occurred in Denmark between 2001 and 2014. The patients’ average age was 72 and 67% were men. Each patient was matched by age and gender to nine people in the general population.
Each week in the year before the cardiac arrest, the percentage of patients who contacted their doctor was relatively constant (26%). But that rose to 54% in the two weeks before cardiac arrest.
Every week during that same year, only 14% of people in the matched population contacted their physician.
Each week during the first six months of the year before cardiac arrest, about 3% of the patients contacted a hospital. That gradually increased each week during the next six months and peaked two weeks before the arrest, when nearly 7% contacted a hospital.
Every week during that same year, only 2% of people in the matched group contacted a hospital, according to the study.
Overall, 58% of cardiac arrest patients had sought medical advice, compared to 26% of the matched population. The study also found that 25% of the patients who visited a hospital in the two weeks before their cardiac arrest had heart disease.
The results were presented Tuesday at a virtual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.
“More data and research are needed on the reasons for these interactions — for example, symptoms — to identify warning signs of those at imminent danger so that future cardiac arrests can be prevented,” Zylyftari said.
Previous research has shown that some cardiac arrest patients had symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest discomfort and palpitations before their cardiac arrest and sought medical help. But there’s been little information on when and where these contacts occurred.
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death worldwide.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Heart Association has more on cardiac arrest.