OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of extended trained ambulance personnel (paramedics) for the management of out of hospital cardiac arrest. METHODS: A retrospective cohort study of patients who suffered a cardiac arrest between 1 January 1992 and 31 July 1994, and who were transported to their local accident and emergency (A&E) department. Data were collected on basic demography, operational time intervals, and ambulance crew status. Further clinical data were collected, and outcome measures included status on arrival at A&E, status on leaving A&E (hospital admission), and status on leaving hospital. The data were analysed using univariate and multivariate techniques. RESULTS: Univariate analysis showed the likelihood of arriving in A&E with a return of spontaneous circulation was more than doubled among patients attended by a paramedic crew compared with those attended by technicians (relative risk = 2.48, 95% confidence interval 1.34 to 4.60). The likelihood of successful hospital admission was also significantly increased (RR = 1.92, 95% CI 1.13 to 3.27); however, beyond this point, further survival benefits appeared to be much smaller. Similar findings were revealed using multivariate analysis. Second level modelling revealed further possible differences between paramedic and technician crews according to type of incident. Patients successfully admitted to hospital who died before discharge remained severely disabled between admission and death. CONCLUSIONS: There are marked short term survival advantages after cardiac arrest associated with paramedic care, but these probably diminish rapidly over time.
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