Question Of The Day #30

question of the day

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient?

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with the return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) from a ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest. His regaining of pulses was likely due to his limited downtime, prompt initiation of CPR, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of ventricular fibrillation with electrical defibrillation. Important elements of emergency post-ROSC care include avoiding hypotension, hypoxia, hyperthermia, and hypo or hyperglycemia. Maintaining proper perfusion to the brain and peripheral organs is crucial in all ROSC patients. A 12-lead EKG should always be obtained early after ROSC is achieved in order to look for signs of cardiac ischemia. Cardiac catheterization should be considered in all post-ROSC patients, but especially in patients with cardiac arrest from ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia.

Patients who achieve ROSC can vary markedly in terms of their clinical exam. Some patients may be awake and conversive, while others are comatose and non-responsive. The neurological exam immediately post-ROSC does not predict long-term outcomes, so decisions on prognosis should not be based on these factors in the emergency department. For this reason, resuscitation efforts should not be considered medically futile in this scenario (Choice A). Vasopressors (Choice B) are medications useful in post-ROSC patients who have signs of hemodynamic collapse, such as hypotension. This patient is not hypotensive and does not meet the criteria for initiation of vasopressors. A CT scan of the head (Choice D) is a study to consider in any patient who presents to the emergency department with collapse to evaluate intracranial bleeding (i.e., subarachnoid bleeding). Although not impossible, the history of chest pain before collapse makes brain bleeding a less likely cause of death in this patient. Targeted Temperature Management (Choice C), also known as Therapeutic Hypothermia, is the best next step in this patient’s management.

Targeted Temperature Management involves a controlled lowering of the patient’s body temperature to 32-34ᵒC in the first 24 hours after cardiac arrest. This treatment has been shown to improve neurologic and survival outcomes. The theory behind this treatment is that hypothermia post-ROSC reduces free radical damage and decreases cerebral metabolism. Data behind targeted temperature management shows the greatest benefit in cardiac arrest patients due to ventricular fibrillation, but arrest from ventricular tachycardia, pulseless electrical activity, and asystole may also show benefit. Adverse effects of this treatment include coagulopathy, bradycardia, electrolyte abnormalities (i.e., hypokalemia), and shivering. Important contraindications to this treatment are an awake or alert patient (post-ROSC GCS >6), DNR or DNI status, another reason to explain comatose state (i.e., intracranial bleeding, spinal cord injury), age under 17 years old, a poor functional status prior to the cardiac arrest (i.e., nonverbal, bedbound), or an arrest caused by trauma. Correct Answer: C



Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #30," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, March 12, 2021,, date accessed: December 11, 2023