New Emergency Drug for Cardiac Arrest

Vasopressin as an agent for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation

Diseases of the cardiovascular system continue to be the most frequent causes of death in the Western world. For over 100 years, Adrenaline has been the standard drug of choice in the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest. A team of researchers headed by Karl H. Lindner and Volker Wenzel from the University Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, University of Innsbruck, has, with the support of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and after years of successful investigations, proved that Vasopressin is at least as successful as Adrenaline as an emergency drug used in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

In fact, in 2000 the findings of the Innsbruck anaesthetists led to a change in the international guidelines concerning cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Since then, Vasopressin has been recommended as a therapy to adult patients suffering from ventricular flutter. Vasopressin improves blood pressure during cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, thus probably increasing the chances of survival of patients with cardiac arrest. As Dr. Wenzel explained, “We have detected a high dosage of endogenic Vasopressin in patients who survived a cardiac arrest. We concluded from this that the body releases more of this substance in this life-threatening situation. Our research has confirmed the assumption that Vasopressin is also of use when injected by an emergency doctor: the chances of survival within the first 24 hours after a cardiac arrest is thus increased.“

Clinical trial soon to be completed

The possible advantage of Vasopressin over Adrenaline shall now be checked on the basis of data obtained in an international clinical trial which was organised by the Innsbruck scientists and included 1219 patients in 33 emergency medical service units in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

The results shall shortly be presented to international experts before being published in an internationally renowned magazine.

“If the data arrived at from the study meets our expectations, Vasopressin could be authorised for the treatment of patients with cardiac arrest. At present, although the international guidelines expressly recommend Vasopressin, the drug has not been officially sanctioned for such an application”, Dr. Wenzel said, and he continued, “In clinical practice Vasopressin is frequently used, and several patients have benefited from its administration. However, the legal framework is somewhat lagging behind this development.”

Nevertheless, among experts the achievements of the Innsbruck anaesthetists have been honoured with prizes on more than one occasion, among them the Hoechst Prize of the University of Innsbruck, the award for emergency and intensive care medicine of the universities of Munich and Munster, and prizes of the American Heart Association and the American Society of Critical Care Medicine.

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