Limited evidence suggests that the presence of a prehospital physician improves survival from cardiac arrest. A retrospective study is undertaken to examine this question. In Reykjavik, Iceland, prehospital physicians on ambulances were replaced by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in 2007. The aim of this study is to compare the outcome of prehospital resuscitation from cardiac arrest during periods of time with and without prehospital physician involvement.
All cardiac arrests that underwent prehospital resuscitation by emergency medical systems between 2004 and 2014 were included. The primary outcome was survival to hospital discharge, and the secondary outcome was return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). Subgroup analyses were performed according to the type of cardiac arrest.
A total of 471 cardiac arrests were included for analysis, 200 treated by prehospital physicians from 2004 to 2007 and 271 treated by EMTs from 2008 to 2014. The overall rate of survival to hospital discharge and ROSC was 23 and 50% during the study period. No significant difference was observed in the rate of survival to hospital discharge [25 vs 22%, difference 3% (95% confidence interval (CI): 11–5%)] or ROSC [53 vs 47%, difference −6% (95% CI: 15–3%)] between these two time periods. In the subgroup of patients with pulseless electrical activity, survival to hospital discharge did not differ between the two periods, but the rate of ROSC was higher in the ‘physician period’ [50 vs 30%, difference −20% (95% CI: −40 to −1%)].
The presence of a prehospital physician on the ambulance was not found to result in a significant improvement in survival or ROSC after cardiac arrest compared to care by EMTs. Patients with pulseless electrical activity experienced an increase in ROSC when a physician was present but without improvement in survival to hospital discharge.