Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests Spiked in 2021, Study Finds


Cardiac arrests that happened outside of hospitals spiked in 2021, according to a new U.S. study.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests were higher after the COVID-19 pandemic than before the pandemic, U.S. researchers found.

They analyzed data from Seattle and King County in Washington state from the years 2018 to 2021. The dataset consisted of 13,081 patients, including 7,102 who were dead when emergency responders arrived and another 4,952 who were treated but died ahead of hospitalization or in the hospital.

Compared to the prepandemic years, or 2018 and 2019, there were 19 percent more people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the pandemic period, or 2020 and 2021, researchers said. That included a 10.8 percent increase in those who survived until responders arrived and a 27.2 percent increase in patients declared dead when responders reached the patients.

The increase in those who survived was among 18- to 64-year-olds, with the rate among those 65 and older holding steady.

The numbers were the highest during 2021, after the COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out.

The researchers did not factor in vaccination status, instead aiming to examine the impact of COVID-19 on out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Of the people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests during the pandemic and survived until emergency responders arrived, 6.2 percent tested positive for COVID-19 in the two weeks before the cardiac arrests or the week following the cardiac arrest, or were diagnosed with COVID-19. Just 3.7 percent of a random sample of those who were declared dead on arrival had COVID-19, which was lower than the percentage in a recent Maryland study.
During the pandemic, the Washington state researchers said, survival was less likely among people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA), consistent with previous research. While 42.6 percent of people survived to hospital admission before the pandemic, just 35.7 percent did in 2020 and 2021. And compared to 2018 and 2019, when 19.2 percent of the patients survived to hospital discharge, just 15.4 percent of patients were discharged alive during the pandemic.

COVID-19 contributed to the downturn in survival, but only a little, the researchers said. They pegged it as responsible for 18.5 percent of the downturn.