External noninvasive cardiac pacing offers a rapid and simple method of pacing the heart during an emergency. It has been suggested that early use of cardiac pacing for bradycardia or asystole may improve survival in patients who have cardiac arrest. To investigate this possibility 58 consecutive episodes of cardiac arrest occurring on the medical wards or emergency room. Twenty-six episodes underwent external noninvasive pacing for bradycardia or asystole refractory to standard drugs. Only 2 patients survived, and survival could be directly attributed to pacing in only 1 of them. Of the 32 episodes not undergoing pacing, 23 had transient asystole or bradycardia, 13 of which rapidly responded to medications. The 17 cases (53%) not undergoing pacing survived. In conclusion, when bradycardia or asystole during cardiac arrest fails to respond to standard pharmacologic measures, it is an indicator of severe myocardial damage, and attempts at cardiac pacing rarely improve survival.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine