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Crit Care Med. 2018 Mar;46(3):e268-e272. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000002920.

Update of a Systematic Review of Autoresuscitation After Cardiac Arrest.

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Division of Pediatric Critical Care, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Deceased Organ Donation, Canadian Blood Services, Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Division of Critical Care, Montreal Children's Hospital, McGill University Health Centre & Research Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.



There has been a growth in publications focusing on the phenomena of autoresuscitation in recent years. In 2010, we systematically reviewed the medical literature with the primary objective of summarizing the evidence on the timing of autoresuscitation. Healthcare professionals have continued to voice concerns regarding the potential for autoresuscitation. With this in mind, the objective of this brief report is to update the results of our original review of autoresuscitation.


We applied the same search strategy described in our original article to update our findings to include articles published from January 2009 to September 2016.


We screened an additional 1,859 citations, after duplicates were removed, and then assessed 46 full-text articles for eligibility, from which 15 studies were included for data extraction.


During the time period of this review, there have been 1) 10 additional adult and three pediatric case reports of autoresuscitation in patients after cessation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation; in those cases with continuous monitoring and confirmation of circulation, the longest events are reported to be 10 and 2 minutes, respectively for adults and children; 2) six adults (4%, total n = 162) with autoresuscitation events reported from two observational studies and one chart review of patients undergoing withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy; the longest time reported to be 89 seconds with electrocardiogram and invasive arterial blood pressure monitoring and 3 minutes with electrocardiogram monitoring only; 3) 12 pediatric patients studied with vital sign monitoring during withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy without any reports of autoresuscitation.


Although case reports of autoresuscitation are hampered by variability in observation and monitoring techniques, autoresuscitation has now been reported in adults and children, and there appears to be a distinction in timing between failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy. Although additional prospective studies are required to clarify the frequency and predisposing factors associated with this phenomenon, clinical decision-making regarding patient management under uncertainty is required nonetheless. Both adult and pediatric healthcare professionals should be aware of the possibility of autoresuscitation and monitor their patients accordingly before diagnosing death.

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