Cardiac Arrest: Caring for the Brain as Well as the Heart


A team at the Ottawa Heart Institute is working to further improve survival rates and outcomes for cardiac arrest patients who make it to the hospital, through its Regional Cardiac Arrest Program—the first of its kind in Canada. The program and the Code ROSC protocol are built on the model of Heart Institute’s highly influential Code STEMI heart attack program, pioneered by cardiologist Michel Le May, MD.

“It is really all about the team,” said Dr. Le May, Director of the Regional Cardiac Arrest Program. Whether it’s the first responders, regional hospitals or Heart Institute staff, they all have a role to play in helping cardiac arrest patients survive.

Getting the heart beating is only the beginning of the story. Before the patient is stabilized, there is a period where blood is not being pumped throughout the body, which can damage organs, sometimes irreparably. Even without that damage, in 80-90% of cases, going into cardiac arrest means there is some other underlying heart problem that needs to be resolved—and that requires the expertise of the Heart Institute.

While much of the damage to other organs, such as the kidneys, reverses itself or can be reversed through treatment, there is no treatment beyond rehabilitation for damage to the brain. So, that is where the team focuses its efforts.

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