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Ann Emerg Med. 1996 Dec;28(6):612-6.

Incidence of cardiac arrest during self-transport for chest pain.

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King County Emergency Medical Services Division, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, Washington, USA.



To assess the incidence of cardiac arrest among patients who use self-transport to seek medical care for chest pain.


This was a retrospective cohort study of patients admitted to a CCU for suspected acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and patients experiencing out-of-hospital cardiac arrest preceded by symptoms in King County, Washington, between January 1, 1992, and July 31, 1994. Participants were identified through use of the databases compiled by the Myocardial infarction Triage and intervention Trial, which reviewed medical records in all area hospitals, and the Cardiac Arrest Surveillance System, which tracks all incidences in which CPR is performed by EMS personnel in King County. Patients whose sudden cardiac arrests were not preceded by symptoms were excluded. Hospital records were abstracted to find the means of transport for patients admitted to CCUs. For cardiac arrest patients, the medical history, presence of symptoms, means of transport, and prehospital death information were abstracted from paramedic field reports. Outcome (admission, discharge, or in-hospital death) was obtained from hospital records. An event cause (cardiac or other) was determined from death certificates, hospital records, or consultation with private physicians.


During the 30-month study period, 13,187 patients sought help for cardiac symptoms and were either admitted to a CCU or died before admission after calling 911. A majority, 7,393 (59%), were transported by emergency medical services, and 5,182 (41%) used private transportation to obtain medical care; the means of transport could not be determined for 612 patients. Of the EMS group, 6,978 were admitted to the hospital without experiencing prehospital cardiac arrest, and 415 (5.6%) arrested before arriving at the hospital. Of the group using private transportation, 5,164 were admitted without arresting and 18 (.35%) arrested before arrival, after which 911 was called (P < .001).


The incidence of cardiac arrest among patients who attempted to reach the hospital by private transportation was very low compared with the incidence among those who chose the EMS system for transport. This suggests that patient self-selection occurs, with the more seriously ill patients more commonly calling 911 for transport.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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