New York City had March, April spike in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests

In New York City, there was a threefold increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases in March and April as compared to the same period last year, new data shows.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the New York City emergency medical services system for people 18 years or older who suffered a cardiac arrest outside the hospital and received care from emergency medical services. They examined data from March 1 through April 25 and compared it to data for cardiac arrest cases for the same time period in 2019. Study results were published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

During the study period, 3,989 people received care from EMS for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, compared to 1,336 patients who were treated during that period in 2019. This represents a nearly threefold increase in cases during the pandemic versus last year.

The death rate for cardiac arrest cases also rose to more than 90 percent during the study period in 2020, from 75 percent in the same period last year.

Few out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases examined in the study were tested for COVID-19, "so we couldn't distinguish between cardiac arrests attributable to COVID-19 and those that may have resulted from other health conditions," said study senior author David Prezant, MD, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and CMO of the Fire Department of the City of New York.

"We also can't rule out the possibility that some people may have died from delays in seeking or receiving treatment for non-COVID-19-related conditions," he said. "However, the dramatic increase in cardiac arrests compared to the same period in 2019, strongly indicates that the pandemic was directly or indirectly responsible for that surge in cardiac arrests and deaths."

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