Study: Hospital patients who suffer cardiac arrest less likely to survive on nights, weekends

WASHINGTON — For those who believe that being hospitalized on a weekend or overnight means your health is at greater risk, you might not be entirely mistaken. A recent study shows that patients who suffer cardiac arrest while hospitalized during these so-called “off-hours” are less likely to survive.

Healthcare experts have long examined the difference in survival rates in hospitals for patients suffering from cardiac events during “on-hours” and “off-hours.” In this latest work, researchers found that while the survival rates for patients who experience cardiac arrest while in the hospital improved overall, those suffering arrest during on-hours (daytime) still had a higher survival rate than those who had heart attacks during off-hours at hospitals.

Doctors and other hospital personnel have to perform three key functions when a patient suffers cardiac arrest: respond to warning signs quickly, implement resuscitation methods quickly, and provide high-quality post-resuscitation care. These functions are notably more difficult for hospital staff to provide during off-hours, which for the purposes of the most recent study were from 11 p.m. until 6:59 a.m. Monday through Friday or any time on the weekend.

Using national resuscitation data from 2000 to 2014, the research team identified more than 151,000 patients who suffered cardiac arrest while hospitalized. More than half of the sample experienced their cardiac arrest during off-hours. Overall, 62.4 percent of patients survived resuscitation efforts, and 18.6 percent survived to hospital discharge. The authors found that survival to discharge rates increased over the study period for patients during on-hours (16 percent to 25.2 percent) and off-hours (12 percent to 22 percent), but the numbers were significantly lower for patients who experienced cardiac arrest during off-hours compared to those during on-hours.

Previous studies have indicated that patients who experience cardiac arrest during off-hours were 15 to 20 percent more likely to have suffer neurological damage or death than those suffering from cardiac arrest during on-hours.

The study was published in the January 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.