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Can J Anaesth. 1998 Feb;45(2):130-2.

Cardiac arrest in the OR: how are our ACLS skills?

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Department of Anaesthesia, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



While advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) training is widely available, it is not mandatory for all anaesthetists. We hypothesised that adherence to ACLS guidelines during resuscitation of ventricular fibrillation (VFib) as assessed in a simulator environment would be poor by anaesthetists not trained in ACLS compared with those who had received training.


With approval by the ethics review board, 89 subjects participated in the study. The simulation system consisted of a computer controlled mannequin with lifelike qualities set in a mock operating room. Each subject was given a test scenario that contained several standard anaesthetic problems. A VFib cardiac arrest occurred after approximately one hour into the simulation. A perfect score (score = A) defined complete compliance with the ACLS guidelines, whereas minor deviations (score = B) included changes in energy levels, drug doses or treatment order. The failure to discontinue the anaesthetic, defibrillate or administer epinephrine were considered major deviations (score = C).


Eight subjects followed the ACLS guidelines (9%, score = A), while 27 subjects showed minor (30%, score = B) and 54 subjects major deviations (61%, score = C). Sixty-two of the 89 participants (70%) had taken the ACLS course and achieved higher scores than did anaesthetists without such training (P < 0.05). Forty-two participants (47%) did not discontinue the anaesthetic, 10 (11%) never gave epinephrine and 5 (6%) never used the defibrillator.


Adherence to ACLS guidelines was poor. A greater proportion of subjects without previous ACLS training had deviations from protocol than did subjects who had received training. We need to consider ways to ensure that anaesthetists obtain and retain resuscitation skills according to ACLS guidelines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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