Cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the elderly: analysis of the events in the emergency department

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Augusto Tricerri *
Lorenzo Palleschi
Luigi Zulli
(*) Corresponding Author:
Augusto Tricerri |


With the increasing number of old people in all western countries and increasing life expectancy at birth, many seniors spend the last period of their life with various afflictions that may lead to cardiac arrest. Bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) increases survival rates. Octogenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population and despite empirical evidence that CPR is of questionable effectiveness in seniors with comorbidities, it is still the only treatment among life-sustaining ones. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is frequently unsuccessful, but if survival is achieved, a fairly good quality of life can be expected. Various papers analyzed the effect of CPR in hospitalized patients or in cardiac arrest occurring at home or in public places, while less is known about events occurring in the emergency room (ER). We performed a retrospective analysis of cardiac arrest events occurred in ER within 54 months: we analyzed 415,001 records of ER visits (from 01/01/1999 to 30/06/2003) in San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital. Data were analyzed in terms of age and outcome. We identified 475 records with the outcome of death in ER or death on arrival. Out of them, we selected 290 medical records which had sufficient data to be analyzed. Of the 290 patients evaluated, 225 died in ER, 18 were deemed to die on arrival, and 47 survived the cardiac arrest and were admitted to intensive care unit (ICU). The overall mortality was 0.11%, while the incidence of the selected events was 0.072%. The mean age of the analyzed population was 71.3 years. The only possible diagnosis was often cardiac arrest, though most of the times we could specify and group the diagnosis even better. The analysis of the procedures showed that cardiac arrest treated by direct current (DC) shock was similarly distributed in different age groups, and no difference was detectable between the two groups. The mean age of the patients who underwent tracheal intubation (TI) was slightly but significantly lower in comparison with the group of non-intubated patients, thus showing a less aggressive resuscitator behavior in old people. Old people seem to have the same chance for surviving cardiac arrest as young people. Other factors like comorbidity can influence the outcome of a cardiac arrest in the elderly. The results of the present study demonstrate that age itself does not seem to be an independent, unfavorable prognostic factor for the outcome after CPR and that older people must be offered the same chance for surviving cardiac arrest as youngsters.

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