Half of all patients who survive a cardiac arrest experience problems with cognitive functions such as memory and attention, according to Swedish researchers.
The study, led by Lund University, involved 950 cardiac arrest patients in Europe and Australia. Six months after their cardiac arrest, the survivors were followed up with cognitive screening tests.
Both patients and their relatives were also asked to report changes that had taken place following the cardiac arrest.
“If we are to provide good treatment to cardiac arrest patients, we don’t just need to save their lives”
Most survivors reported that they were independent in their daily activities, but one-third stated that they had not made a complete mental recovery after their cardiac arrest, said the study authors.
This finding was supported by the report of a relative or close acquaintance, observing a minor decline – based on results from the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly – in half of the survivors and a moderate or severe decline in a quarter, they added.
Lead author Dr Tobias Cronberg concluded that it would be good if all cardiac arrest patients received follow-up with regard to memory and attention, as well as physical health.
During the study, both patients and their relatives appreciated the opportunity to discuss any deterioration, its causes and how it can be addressed, he said.
“If we are to provide good treatment to cardiac arrest patients, we don’t just need to save their lives,” said Dr Cronberg. “Otherwise they are at risk of developing dementia.”
The overall aim of the study was to compare the effect of a body temperature of 33°C and 36°C following cardiac arrest, while patients were in a coma and being treated in intensive care.
The researchers have previously shown that maintaining a temperature of 36°C produced the same survival rate as cooling to 33°C.
“We have now also demonstrated that not only survival but also cognitive ability is the same in patients who have been kept at 33°C or 36°C,” said Dr Cronberg.
The study results have been published in the journal JAMA Neurology.