Study Finds Effectiveness of EMS CPR Dropped Significantly During COVID-19

Photo/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A study published in the journal Resuscitation found that the effectiveness of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) performed by EMS providers, such as EMTs and paramedics, has significantly dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers — from the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, and the Mount Sinai Health System — examined nationwide cardiac arrest data involving ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia during the months of April 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

They found that, during non-pandemic times (2017-2019), EMS crews were consistently able to regain a pulse in roughly 47% of patients. During April 2020, however, when the pandemic was in full swing, a pulse could be achieved only 42.9% of the time.
Regaining a pulse is an important predictor of and prerequisite for survival in cardiac arrest.

The researchers attribute this decrease to either: EMS encountering inherently sicker patients who respond to CPR less positively during the pandemic, providers being less able to provide high-quality CPR while wearing heightened levels of PPE, or providers being less aggressive with resuscitation out of fear of contracting the disease from potentially-infected patients.

Aditya Shekhar, the lead author of the study, described his findings by saying “these findings are alarming given the prevalence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and the importance of prehospital EMS providers in ensuring the survival of critical patients. I think the entire medical community should closely examine how providers of all levels are performing resuscitations during this pandemic to see if there are areas where improvement is necessary.”

Other authors of the study include Christopher Mercer of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, Ira Blumen of the University of Chicago, and Jagat Narula of the Mount Sinai Health System.

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