Post–cardiac arrest care research has advanced significantly over the past decade. Multiple studies and trials detail the heterogeneity of patients and the spectrum of pathophysiology after cardiac arrest. Post–cardiac arrest care should be titrated based on arrest etiology, comorbid disease, and illness severity. Thus, the 2015 Guidelines Update integrates available data to help experienced clinicians make the complex set of therapeutic decisions required for these patients. The central principles of postarrest care are (1) to identify and treat the underlying etiology of the cardiac arrest, (2) to mitigate ischemia-reperfusion injury and prevent secondary organ injury, and (3) to make accurate estimates of prognosis to guide the clinical team and to inform the family when selecting goals of continued care.
Early coronary angiography and coronary intervention are recommended for patients with ST elevation as well as for patients without ST elevation, when an acute coronary event is suspected. The decision to perform coronary angiography should not include consideration of neurologic status, because of the unreliability of early prognostic signs. Targeted temperature management is still recommended for at least 24 hours in comatose patients after cardiac arrest, but clinicians may choose a target temperature from the wider range of 32°C to 36°C. Estimating the prognosis of patients after cardiac arrest is best accomplished by using multiple modalities of testing: clinical examination, neurophysiological testing, and imaging.
One of the most common causes of cardiac arrest outside of the hospital is acute coronary occlusion. Quickly identifying and treating this cause is associated with better survival and better functional recovery. Therefore, coronary angiography should be performed emergently (rather than later in the hospital stay or not at all) for OHCA patients with suspected cardiac etiology of arrest and ST elevation on ECG. Emergency coronary angiography is reasonable for select (eg, electrically or hemodynamically unstable) adults who are without ST elevation on ECG but are comatose after OHCA of suspected cardiac origin. Emergency coronary angiography is also reasonable for post–cardiac arrest patients for whom coronary angiography is indicated, regardless of whether the patient is comatose or awake.
A high-quality randomized controlled trial did not identify any superiority of targeted temperature management at 36°C compared with management at 33°C. Excellent outcomes are possible when patients are actively managed at either temperature. All comatose (ie, lack of meaningful response to verbal commands) adult patients with ROSC after cardiac arrest should have targeted temperature management, with providers selecting and maintaining a constant temperature between 32°C and 36°C for at least 24 hours after achieving target temperature. It is also reasonable to actively prevent fever in comatose patients after targeted temperature management.