Join Clinical Trials for Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest results when the heart experiences an abnormal heart beat that causes it to quit beating all together. Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, in that the heart generally continues to beat following a heart attack. Cardiac arrest can result from coronary heart disease, heart attack, electrocution, drowning, or choking. It can also occur for unknown reasons.
If not treated immediately, cardiac arrest leads to death within a matter of minutes. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation (in which an electric shock is administered to the heart), if administered quickly, can lower the risk of death. However, unfortunately, most people who experience sudden cardiac arrest die as a result.
The risk of cardiac arrest increases with age, and is also greater among individuals with heart disease. In addition, men are two or three times more likely than women to experience cardiac arrest. Family history of sudden cardiac arrest and inherited conditions that predispose people to arrhythmias can also play a role.
Researchers are working to identify ways to prevent cardiac arrest from recurring in individuals who have been lucky enough to survive it, as they are at an increased risk for experiencing it again. New medications are also being tested for their ability to lower the risk of cardiac arrest among individuals with coronary heart disease.
What Will Cardiac Arrest Clinical Trials Be Like?
The types of tests and assessments used in cardiac arrest clinical trials will ultimately depend on the specific nature of the study. Provided below is a list of frequent procedures and tests used to evaluate the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, many of which may be incorporated for use in clinical trials:
- Physical exam
- Detailed family history of heart, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol.
- Genetic testing
- Blood tests to evaluate the levels of potassium, magnesium, and other substances in the blood that play an integral role in regulating the heart’s electrical signaling.
- Blood tests to evaluate the effectiveness or chemical properties of a medication, if you are participating in a clinical trial that is investigating the use of a new drug.
- Echocardiography (“echo”): a painless procedure that uses ultrasound to create moving pictures of your heart, which allow doctors to see its size, shape, and how well it is working.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG, or ECG): a straightforward and painless procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart.
- Stress test: a test performed while you exercise (usually by walking or running on a treadmill, or pedaling a stationary bicycle), which allows doctors to evaluate how your heart works during episodes of physical stress.
- Computed tomography (CT scan, or “CAT scan”) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans: these are non-invasive imaging procedures, similar to an x-ray, that allow doctors to take detailed pictures of your heart.
- Cardiac catheterization: a procedure during which a long, thin, and flexible tube (i.e., catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the arm, upper thigh, or neck and threaded through until it reaches your heart. This allows doctors to perform diagnostic tests and treatments, as well as to evaluate blockages in the blood vessels.
- Electrophysiology study: a procedure in which doctors use cardiac catheterization to record the heart’s electrical activity and evaluate how it responds to various medications and electrical stimulation.
Typical Cardiac Arrest Clinical Trial Protocol:
Specific examples of clinical trials for cardiac arrest might include the following:
- A randomized study in which the blood levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) are measured in patients following cardiac-arrest, and then patients are randomly assigned to receive either CoQ10 supplements or a placebo to determine if supplementation can raise CoQ10 levels in those who receive it. The goal of a study such as this would be to determine the prevalence of low CoQ10 levels in cardiac arrest patients and then determine if supplementation is more effective at raising levels than natural processes within the body.
- A study to determine if the use of corticosteroids in patients who have experienced cardiac arrest will decrease the amount of time it takes to reverse shock, decrease inflammation, and improve circulation. In a trial such as this, the use of corticosteroids would be administered to post-cardiac arrest patients in addition to standard therapy and the results would be compared to a group of post-cardiac arrest patients who received only standard therapy.
- Medically-induced hypothermia (low body temperature) is typically performed following cardiac arrest in order to prevent brain injury and improve the overall patient outcome. A study might examine the use of hypothermia in children who survive cardiac arrest to determine if 24 hours or 72 hours of whole-body hypothermia is more effective at preventing brain injury while still remaining safe.
A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:
Many clinical trials involve the comparison of an investigational treatment to a “standard” treatment. Some studies determine which therapy a patient receives through a process known as randomization, in which patients are randomly assigned to receive either the investigational treatment or the standard treatment.
On occasion, a trial will investigate the use of a standard treatment plus a new drug compared to standard treatment plus a placebo. Placebos are inactive or “sham” treatments that are identical in appearance to the active treatment but have no therapeutic value.
Placebos are necessary to help determine if adverse effects that occur during the clinical trial are the result of the investigational treatment or due to some other factor. They also allow researchers to measure the effects of the active treatment and observe what would have happened without it.
In rare instances where no standard therapy exists, or when a new drug or therapy is being investigated, the investigational treatment might be compared to a placebo alone. In these types of trials, those patients who are randomized to the placebo group do not receive an active treatment.
It is important to know that placebo-only trials are only conducted when scientifically necessary and when patients have been adequately informed that they may end up receiving the placebo rather than the active treatment. It is very important to note, however, that no one should ever participate in such a placebo trial when there is a widely available and highly effective standard treatment already in existence for their particular disease or condition.
Trial Eligibility and Medical Information Needed:
The type of clinical trial you may be eligible for often depends on many factors. Therefore, it is important to know many details pertaining to your specific diagnosis when searching for clinical trials. Examples of the details you may want to have on hand include:
- Your history of heart disease
- Your prior history of treatment for heart disease (including any surgeries, procedures, and medications)
- Your current medications (including aspirin), vitamins, and dietary supplements.
Suggested Search Terms:
“cardiac arrest management,” “cardiac arrest prevention,” “cardiac arrest family history,” “cardiac arrest pediatric,” “cardiac arrest survival,” “cardiac arrest treatment,” “cardiac arrest recovery,” cardiac arrest risk factors,” and “cardiac arrest heart disease.”
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