OBJECTIVE: To build new algorithms for prognostication of comatose cardiac arrest patients using clinical examination, and investigate whether therapeutic hypothermia influences the value of the clinical examination.
METHODS: From 2000 to 2007, 500 consecutive patients in non-traumatic coma were prospectively enrolled, 200 of whom were post-cardiac arrest. Outcome was determined by modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score at 6 months, with mRS≤3 indicating good outcome. The clinical examination was performed on days 0, 1, 3 and 7 post-arrest, and clinical variables analyzed for importance in prognostication of outcome. A classification and regression tree analysis (CART) was used to develop a predictive algorithm.
RESULTS: Good outcome was achieved in 9.9% of patients. In CART analysis, motor response was often chosen as a root node, and spontaneous eye movements, pupillary reflexes, eye opening and corneal reflexes were often chosen as splitting nodes. Over 8% of patients with absent or extensor motor response on day 3 achieved a good outcome, as did 2 patients with myoclonic status epilepticus. The odds of achieving a good outcome were lower in patients who suffered asystole (OR 0.187, 95% CI: 0.039-0.875, p=0.033) compared with ventricular fibrillation or non-perfusing ventricular tachycardia, but some still achieved good outcome. The absence of pupillary and corneal reflexes on day 3 remained highly reliable for predicting poor outcome, regardless of therapeutic hypothermia utilization.
CONCLUSION: The clinical examination remains central to prognostication in comatose cardiac arrest patients in the modern area. Future studies should incorporate the clinical examination along with modern technology for accurate prognostication.