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Emergency hospital team halves cardiac arrest deaths

Early intervention by a medical emergency team can reduce deaths from unexpected cardiac arrest in hospital by half, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Australia recorded the level of and deaths from cardiac arrest in a single hospital over two 12 month periods: before (1996) and after (1999) the introduction of a medical emergency team.

In 1996 there were 73 cases of unexpected cardiac arrest compared with 47 cases in 1999. Death rates were also reduced from 77% to 55% after the system had been introduced. Overall, the intervention was associated with a 50% reduction in cardiac arrest.

Implementing the system required considerable cultural change throughout the hospital, which could explain some of the observed effects, say the authors. Nevertheless, these results show than an early intervention, together with a system of support and education, can significantly reduce the number of cardiac arrests and deaths from cardiac arrest in hospital, they conclude.

British Medical Journal (BMJ). February 2002.

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