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Preventing In-Hospital Cardiac Arrests

A report recently published by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death reveals that a third of in-hospital cardiac arrests are preventable with proper assessment and intervention.

The conclusion that hospital patients are dying because of substandard medical care corroborates the findings of previous studies into in-hospital cardiac arrests. Indeed, a document published by the Resuscitation Council states that survival rates following in-hospital cardiac arrest are poor in all age groups, with fewer than 20% of adults surviving to go home.

Evidently these statistics are extremely worrying, as it is logical to assume that a hospital in in fact the best place for cardiac arrest to occur. It seems, however, that a combination of inadequate patient monitoring, poor recognition of patient deterioration and ineffective clinical response are causing unnecessary deaths. Below we take a closer look at each of these different elements, explaining how medical professionals should be able to prevent in-hospital cardiac arrests.

How can in-hospital cardiac arrests be prevented?

Although not all in-hospital cardiac arrests can be prevented, medical professionals can go a long way to avoiding unnecessary deaths by ensuring the following three factors are fulfilled:-

1. Patient monitoring

All patients admitted to hospital should undergo frequent monitoring by doctors and nurses. Additional attention should be paid to those patients identified as being seriously ill, and those who sustain a 'false' cardiac arrest (whereby a patient appears to suffer a cardiac arrest but does not need any sort of life support). It is also vital that medical teams communicate with one another to prevent an adverse outcome, particularly if the patient is transferred to a different ward.

2. Patient deterioration

When monitoring a patient, medical professionals will take routine vital sign measurements. If the findings of these measurements known as early warning scores (EWS) or calling criteria are abnormal, a patient could be in the early stages of a critical illness. Thus not only is it important that a patient's early warning scores are continually recorded, but also that any irregularity is recognised by medical professionals. This means education is needed to ensure doctors and nurses remain aware of the signs indicative of patient deterioration and possible cardiac arrest.

3. Clinical response

If a patient is found to be deteriorating, medical professionals should respond immediately by implementing a treatment limitation plan to reduce the possibility of a cardiac arrest. This represents a proactive approach rather than a reactive response (ie. where medical intervention is only provided once a patient has had a cardiac arrest).

Have your loved one suffered an in-hospital cardiac arrest?

With these steps, experts suggest that many in-hospital cardiac arrests could be prevented. If there is a failure to adequately monitor a patient, recognise their deterioration and enforce an appropriate treatment plan, the substandard level of care could amount to medical negligence. If you believe this has happened to you or your loved one, contact a solicitor as soon as possible.

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