Purpose of review
Many efforts have been made in the last decades to improve outcome in patients who are successfully resuscitated from sudden cardiac arrest. Despite some advances, postanoxic encephalopathy remains the most common cause of death among those patients and several investigations have focused on early neuroprotection in this setting.
Therapeutic hypothermia is the only strategy able to provide effective neuroprotection in clinical practice. Experimental studies showed that therapeutic hypothermia was even more effective when it was started immediately after the ischemic event. In human studies, the use of prehospital hypothermia was able to reduce the time to target temperature but did not result in higher survival rate or neurological recovery in patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, when compared with standard in-hospital therapeutic hypothermia. Thus, intra-arrest hypothermia (i.e., initiated during cardiopulmonary resuscitation) may be a valid alternative to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic hypothermia in this setting; however, more clinical data are needed to demonstrate any potential benefit of such intervention on neurological outcome. Together with cooling, early hemodynamic optimization should be considered to improve cerebral perfusion in cardiac arrest patients and minimize any secondary brain injury. Nevertheless, only scarce data are available on the impact of early hemodynamic optimization on the development of organ dysfunction and neurological recovery in such patients. Some new protective strategies, including inhaled gases (i.e., xenon, argon, nitric oxide) and intravenous drugs (i.e., erythropoietin) are emerging in experimental studies as promising tools to improve neuroprotection, especially when combined with therapeutic hypothermia.
Early cooling may contribute to enhance neuroprotection after cardiac arrest. Hemodynamic optimization is mandatory to avoid cerebral hypoperfusion in this setting. The combination of such interventions with other promising neuroprotective strategies should be evaluated in future large clinical studies.