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External cardiac pacing for out-of-hospital bradyasystolic arrest

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      Abstract

      Cardiac pacing has been used successfully in patients with asystole or bradycardia compromising hemodynamics when it was applied soon after the onset of the event. An external cardiac pacemaker was used as part of initial resuscitative efforts for patients in primary, out-of-hospital, cardiac arrest who arrived in the emergency department in asystole, agonal rhythm, pulseless idioventricular rhythm, or bradycardia with hemodynamic compromise. A pulse was successfully generated in only one of twelve patients. That patient developed complete atrioventricular dissociation while in the emergency department. The nonresponding patients were in asystole or pulseless idioventricular rhythm when the pacemaker was applied. Pacing was initiated 1–13 minutes (mean 7 minutes) after arrival in the emergency department, but 27–90 minutes (mean 59 minutes) after arrest. The interval between arrest and application of the pacemaker was prolonged because of long periods for ambulance response, field resuscitation, and transport. It is concluded that the external cardiac pacemaker is a useful instrument for the treatment of bradyarrhythmias. While it may also be useful in the first few minutes after development of asystole, pulseless idioventricular rhythm, or agonal rhythm, it is of no benefit if applied long after the event.

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