Good neurological outcome after cardiac arrest is difficult to achieve. Interventions during the resuscitation phase and treatment within the first hours after the event are critical. Experimental evidence suggests that therapeutic hypothermia is beneficial, and several clinical studies on this topic have been published. This review was originally published in 2009; updated versions were published in 2012 and 2016.
We aimed to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the influence of therapeutic hypothermia after cardiac arrest on neurological outcome, survival and adverse events.
We searched the following databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2014, Issue 10); MEDLINE (1971 to May 2015); EMBASE (1987 to May 2015); the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (1988 to May 2015); and BIOSIS (1989 to May 2015). We contacted experts in the field to ask for information on ongoing, unpublished or published trials on this topic.The original search was performed in January 2007.
We included all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) conducted to assess the effectiveness of therapeutic hypothermia in participants after cardiac arrest, without language restrictions. We restricted studies to adult populations cooled by any cooling method, applied within six hours of cardiac arrest.
We entered validity measures, interventions, outcomes and additional baseline variables into a database. Meta-analysis was performed only for a subset of comparable studies with negligible heterogeneity. We assessed the quality of the evidence by using standard methodological procedures as expected by Cochrane and incorporated the GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach.
We found six RCTs (1412 participants overall) conducted to evaluate the effects of therapeutic hypothermia - five on neurological outcome and survival, one on only neurological outcome. The quality of the included studies was generally moderate, and risk of bias was low in three out of six studies. When we compared conventional cooling methods versus no cooling (four trials; 437 participants), we found that participants in the conventional cooling group were more likely to reach a favourable neurological outcome (risk ratio (RR) 1.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.18 to 3.21). The quality of the evidence was moderate.Across all studies that used conventional cooling methods rather than no cooling (three studies; 383 participants), we found a 30% survival benefit (RR 1.32, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.65). The quality of the evidence was moderate.Across all studies, the incidence of pneumonia (RR 1.15, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.30; two trials; 1205 participants) and hypokalaemia (RR 1.38, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.84; two trials; 975 participants) was slightly increased among participants receiving therapeutic hypothermia, and we observed no significant differences in reported adverse events between hypothermia and control groups. Overall the quality of the evidence was moderate (pneumonia) to low (hypokalaemia).
Evidence of moderate quality suggests that conventional cooling methods provided to induce mild therapeutic hypothermia improve neurological outcome after cardiac arrest, specifically with better outcomes than occur with no temperature management. We obtained available evidence from studies in which the target temperature was 34°C or lower. This is consistent with current best medical practice as recommended by international resuscitation guidelines for hypothermia/targeted temperature management among survivors of cardiac arrest. We found insufficient evidence to show the effects of therapeutic hypothermia on participants with in-hospital cardiac arrest, asystole or non-cardiac causes of arrest.