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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2013 Jan;57(1):6-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2012.02736.x. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Continuous evaluation of neurological prognosis after cardiac arrest.

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  • 1Department of Intensive and Perioperative Care, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.


Post-resuscitation care has changed in the last decade, and outcome after cardiac arrest has improved, thanks to several combined measures. Induced hypothermia has shown a treatment benefit in two randomized trials, but some doubts remain. General care has improved, including the use of emergency coronary intervention. Assessment of neurological function and prognosis in comatose cardiac arrest patient is challenging, especially when treated with hypothermia. In this review, we evaluate the recent literature and discuss the available evidence for prognostication after cardiac arrest in the era of temperature management. Relevant literature was identified searching PubMed and reading published papers in the field, but no standardized search strategy was used. The complexity of predicting outcome after cardiac arrest and induced hypothermia is recognized in the literature, and no single test can predict a poor prognosis with absolute certainty. A clinical neurological examination is still the gold standard, but the results need careful interpretation because many patients are affected by sedatives and by hypothermia. Common adjuncts include neurophysiology, brain imaging and biomarkers, and a multimodal strategy is generally recommended. Current guidelines for prediction of outcome after cardiac arrest and induced hypothermia are not sufficient. Based on our expert opinion, we suggest a multimodal approach with a continuous evaluation of prognosis based on repeated neurological examinations and electroencephalography. Somatosensory-evoked potential is an established method to help determine a poor outcome and is recommended, whereas biomarkers and magnetic resonance imaging are promising adjuncts. We recommend that a decisive evaluation of prognosis is performed at 72 h after normothermia or later in a patient free of sedative and analgetic drugs.

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