U.S. hospital data shows a dramatic spike in 2021 in the number of Americans who died suddenly after suffering an unexpected cardiac arrest, a new peer-reviewed study has revealed.
The researchers discovered a sharp increase in the number of “out-of-hospital” cardiac arrest deaths.
In the context of the study, “out-of-hospital” deaths refer to those who suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest and died before they could be treated in a hospital, the researchers explain.
The study analyzed this dataset as it highlights the number of people who died suddenly and unexpectedly.
The researchers analyzed data from Seattle and King County in Washington state from the years 2018 to 2021.
The dataset consisted of 13,081 patients, including 7,102 who were dead when emergency responders arrived and another 4,952 who were treated but died ahead of hospitalization or in the hospital.
The study was led by Jennifer Z. Liu, an epidemiologist with Public Health-Seattle & King County, and included several co-authors representing the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
The findings were published this month in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open journal.
Compared to the prepandemic years, or 2018 and 2019, there were 19 percent more people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests during 2020 and 2021, or the pandemic period, researchers said.
That included a 10.8 percent increase in those who survived until responders arrived and a 27.2 percent increase in patients declared dead when responders reached the patients.
The increase in those who survived was among 18- to 64-year-olds, with the rate among those 65 and older holding steady.
The researchers did not factor in vaccination status, however.
Instead, they sought to examine the impact of COVID-19 on out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
Nevertheless, the study found that the numbers were the highest in 2021 after the COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out.
The researchers compared Covid test results to those who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
Of the people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests during the pandemic and survived until emergency responders arrived, 6.2 percent tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive tests were recorded either at the time they were treated, in the two weeks before the cardiac arrest, or in the week following the cardiac arrest.
From a random sample of those who were declared dead on arrival, just 3.7 percent had Covid.
The figure was lower than the percentage in a recent Maryland study, the researchers noted.
The Washington State researchers said that survival was less likely among people who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, 42.6 percent of people survived until hospital admission.
However, just 35.7 percent survived until hospital admission in 2020 and 2021.
In 2018 and 2019, 19.2 percent of the patients survived until hospital discharge.
In 2020 and 2021, just 15.4 percent of cardiac arrest patients were discharged alive.
The researchers said that COVID-19 did contribute to the downturn in survival, but only slightly.
They pegged it as responsible for 18.5 percent of the downturn.
The major factors, they said, included social isolation that led to fewer observed events, a delay in healthcare workers treating patients due to updated equipment and resuscitation protocols, and hampered emergency response times.
The factors were described as Utstein characteristics.
“OHCA survival was poorer during the pandemic years, largely owing to changes in systemwide Utstein characteristics, as opposed to patient-specific acute SARS-CoV-2 infection,” lead study author Jennifer Liu and her coauthors wrote.
SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Other groups have also said that indirect reasons for the lowered survival rate and increased occurrence rate could stem from reasons such as delayed response times.
Liu and the other authors declared no conflicts of interest or funding in their study paper.
The limitations of the paper include the data being from one county.
The researchers did not reveal why the group did not analyze the possible impact of vaccination on the increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
The Covid mRNA shots are known to cause myocarditis, or heart inflammation, as well as other cardiac events, according got the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Retsef Levi, a professor of operations management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, responded to the study by arguing that the research should indicate a correlation between the shots and the hospital data.
“What most striking is the lack of analysis of a possible correlation of OHCA case rates with the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns that started at the end of 2020 and continued throughout 2021,” Levi told The Epoch Times via email.
“Such correlation has been observed in other studies and since the authors seem to have access to comprehensive case-level data (e.g., medical records), it looked like they could have potentially done that,” Levi, who was not involved in the research, added.
“At the very least the authors should have analyzed the temporal correlation between community vaccination rates and the OHCA case rates.”
Mr. Levi noted that the number of events was primarily grouped in the pandemic and pre-pandemic periods, apart from one graph in the supplementary content, which showed the year with the most events was 2021.
“It is not even clear if there is an increase in 2020 compared to the baseline, or the entire increase is observed in 2021,” Mr. Levi said.
The researchers did find a statistically significant correlation between weekly COVID-19 rates in the community and the weekly rate of OHCA, but only in 2020, not in 2021.
Levi contributed to research that found the worse outcomes among people who suffered heart cardiac arrests during the pandemic in Boston stemmed from a reluctance to seek healthcare.
His research team also found that, in Israel, increases in emergency calls for young people for cardiovascular events were significantly associated with COVID-19 vaccination.
Some other papers have found that prior to the vaccine rollout, people who tested positive for COVID-19 and suffered a cardiac arrest were more likely to die when compared to people who did not test positive.