J Emerg Med. 2021 Mar;60(3):331-341. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.10.051. Epub 2020 Dec 15.
BACKGROUND: More than 640,000 combined in-hospital and out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. However, survival rates and meaningful neurologic recovery remain poor. Although "shockable" rhythms (i.e., ventricular fibrillation (VF) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT)) have the best outcomes, many of these ventricular dysrhythmias fail to return to a perfusing rhythm (resistant VF/VT), or recur shortly after they are resolved (recurrent VF/VT).
OBJECTIVE: This review discusses 4 emerging therapies in the emergency department for treating these resistant or recurrent ventricular dysrhythmias: beta-blocker therapy, dual simultaneous external defibrillation, stellate ganglion blockade, and extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We discuss the underlying physiology of each therapy, review relevant literature, describe when these approaches should be considered, and provide evidence-based recommendations for these techniques.
DISCUSSION: Esmolol may mitigate some of epinephrine's negative effects when used during resuscitation, improving both postresuscitation cardiac function and long-term survival. Dual simultaneous external defibrillation targets the region of the heart where ventricular fibrillation typically resumes and may apply a more efficient defibrillation across the heart, leading to higher rates of successful defibrillation. Stellate ganglion blocks, recently described in the emergency medicine literature, have been used to treat patients with recurrent VF/VT, resulting in significant dysrhythmia suppression. Finally, extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation is used to provide cardiopulmonary support while clinicians correct reversible causes of arrest, potentially resulting in improved survival and good neurologic functional outcomes.
CONCLUSION: These emerging therapies do not represent standard practice; however, they may be considered in the appropriate clinical scenario when standard therapies are exhausted without success.