(NaturalNews) The odds of surviving cardiac arrest while in a hospital are low and have barely changed in more than ten years, according to a Medicare study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington-Seattle and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating or quivers due to a heart attack, drug reaction or other underlying cause.
"It's troubling. We have made a lot of progress in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest," said quality-of-care researcher Paul S. Chan of the St. Luke's Mid America Heart Institute.
Although rates of training and effectiveness of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of electric defibrillators to restart stopped hearts have drastically increased among non-medical professionals in recent years -- including a threefold increase in survival rates in the Seattle area for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest -- training in hospitals have not kept pace. Chan found in a prior study that in one out of three cases, hospital patients fail to receive a defibrillator shock within the recommended two-minute window after the onset of cardiac arrest. Furthermore, most hospital staffers fail to apply CPR chest compressions at the necessary rate of 100 per minute, or they perform them too shallowly to have an effect.
The new study reviewed the medical records of 433,985 Medicare patients across the United States who were treated for cardiac arrest between 1992 and 2005. The rate of cardiac arrest survival -- defined as surviving long enough to be discharged from the hospital -- remained steady at a low 18 percent over that entire time period.
Doctors have become so use to the high failure rates that they have come to accept them, said Dr. Gerald Buckberg of the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center.
"We should not accept the failure," he said.
Furthermore, too many doctors are satisfied if they simply stop the cardiac arrest, he said. In such cases, he said, "we have only treated the symptom of sudden death -- we haven't treated the reason."