SEATTLE - If your heart stops beating and you live in King county, the type of treatment you receive may be part of a random test. The county is part of a national study to find out the best type of CPR and medication for cardiac arrest.
"It's a huge problem," says Dr. Peter Kudenchuk, cardiac specialist at the University of Washington. "It's a huge killer. And it's sad the outcome is so poor and part of that is because treatments have not been fully tested."
King County paramedics and first responders will try to improve those odds by taking part in two trials. The first will test which one of three drug treatments is most effective.
"The medics will have a kit containing syringes of drug and they will not know if the drugs contain Amiodarone, Lidocaine or a salt solution which will be a placebo. So they will be blinded," says Kudenchuk.
The second trial focuses on two methods of CPR.
"We are testing whether continuous compressions without pauses for breathing is as good or better than compressions with pauses for breathing," says Dr. Graham Nichol, medical director for the clinical trials.
What makes some uncomfortable is that both trials will be randomly administered and it's impossible to get patient consent ahead of time.
"When a patient has cardiac arrest they are dead in ten minutes if nothing is done, and to pull someone aside [like] a family member, and take ten minutes to tell them what is going on, is a death sentence for that patient," says Kudenchuk.
A vast majority of King County residents who took part in a telephone survey supported both studies. Patients can opt out of the study by requesting a bright red rubber bracelet that says "no study." University of Washington has posted more information on the study on this website.