The American Heart Association (AHA) and seven other medical societies have issued interim guidance to inform treatment of victims of cardiac arrest with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, focusing on reducing provider exposure, and prioritizing oxygenation and ventilation strategies, goals of care, and appropriateness of resuscitation.
“We were very specific in calling this ‘interim guidance’ based on expert opinion because things are evolving so quickly and we are learning more and more every day as more and more patients with COVID-19 are taken care of,” corresponding author Comilla Sasson, MD, PhD, vice president, Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) Science and Innovation, American Heart Association, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.
“We wanted this to be a starting point for providing the clinical guidance that everyone is looking for and, as we collect more data, the guidance will change, as it has for CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and WHO [World Health Organization],” she said.
“The guidance sought to balance the provision of timely, high-quality resuscitation to patients while simultaneously protecting rescuers,” she added.
The guidance was published online April 9 in Circulation. The AHA produced the guidelines in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Respiratory Care, American College of Emergency Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, with support from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and National EMS Physicians.
“We think of cardiac arrest in adults, especially as related to cardiac etiologies, but we are now thinking of it in COVID-19 more as hypoxemia or respiratory failure, which can predispose patients to cardiac arrest,” Sasson explained.
Healthcare workers are the “highest-risk profession” for contracting the COVID-19, with resuscitations carrying “added risk” for several reasons, the authors note.
Administering CPR involves performing numerous aerosol-generating procedures that can cause viral particles to remain suspended in the air and be inhaled by those nearby, with a half-life of approximately 1 hour, they point out.
Moreover, resuscitation efforts “require numerous providers to work in close proximity to one another and the patient,” and the high-stress emergent nature of these events may result in lapses in infection-control procedures.
The guidance is designed “to protect not only the patient but also the provider and involves strategies regarding oxygenation and ventilation that differ from what we’ve done in the past since we have a strong feeling that this is a different disease process that may require different approaches than what we’ve dealt with in the past,” Sasson commented.
Reducing Provider Exposure
Providers should don PPE to protect both themselves and their colleagues from unnecessary exposure, the authors advise, noting that recommendations for PPE standards may “vary considerably,” so health or emergency medical services (EMS) standards should be taken into account.
Moreover, it is important to allow only the most essential providers into the room or on the scene. In keeping with reducing the number of rescuers, the authors recommend replacing manual chest compressions with mechanical CPR devices for patients who meet height and weight criteria in settings with “protocols and expertise in place for their use.”
COVID-19 status should be communicated to any new providers prior to their arrival on the scene, the authors stress.