West Midlands Ambulance Service backs cardiac arrest trial

Picture of defibrillation after cardiac arrest Image copyright SPL
Image caption Adrenaline has been routinely used to treat cardiac arrests since the 1960s

A study that will see some of its patients suffering cardiac arrest given a dummy drug has been backed by West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Warwick Medical School is leading the trial after concerns adrenaline, used to restart the heart, could cause brain damage and even death.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the work could ultimately save "hundreds of patients".

The trial, involving some 8,000 patients, will start in the autumn.

It will see ambulance staff in the West Midlands, London, Wales, and on the south coast and north-east of England inject roughly half of the the patients with adrenaline and the others with a salt solution placebo.

Patients, however, will not be able to give consent as they will be unconscious, prompting criticism from some experts.

One in four

Paramedics and other clinical staff will also be unaware which patients received the placebo.

West Midlands Ambulance Service medical director Dr Andy Carson said: "Although adrenaline has been used for many years in cardiac arrest management, there is growing evidence that it may result in poorer outcomes for patients, hence the trial."

He said developments in technology suggested the drug "may cause more harm than good".

The British Heart Foundation has also supported the study.

Ken Timmis, chair of the Wolverhampton Coronary Aftercare Support Group, said he was confident his members would support any project that could ultimately "lead to better survival rates".

About 50,000 people a year in the UK suffer a cardiac arrest, according to Warwick Medical School, but resuscitation is successful in just one in four cases.

Dr Carson said defibrillation and CPR would be used as normal, while the trial would not affect patients suffering from conditions such as anaphylaxis.

He said patients suffering heart attacks would not be affected as adrenaline is not used as part of the treatment.

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