The relationship of large city out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and the prevalence of COVID-19

Writing group on behalf of the Metropolitan EMS Medical Directors Global Alliance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Though variable, many major metropolitan cities reported profound and unprecedented increases in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in early 2020. This study examined the relative magnitude of those increases and their relationship to COVID-19 prevalence. Methods: EMS (9-1-1 system) medical directors for 50 of the largest U.S. cities agreed to provide the aggregate, de-identified, pre-existing monthly tallies of OHCA among adults (age >18 years) occurring between January and June 2020 within their respective jurisdictions. Identical comparison data were also provided for corresponding time periods in 2018 and 2019. Equivalent data were obtained from the largest cities in Italy, United Kingdom and France, as well as Perth, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. Findings: Significant OHCA escalations generally paralleled local prevalence of COVID-19. During April, most U.S. cities (34/50) had >20% increases in OHCA versus 2018–2019 which reflected high local COVID-19 prevalence. Thirteen observed 1·5-fold increases in OHCA and three COVID-19 epicenters had >100% increases (2·5-fold in New York City). Conversely, cities with lesser COVID-19 impact observed unchanged (or even diminished) OHCA numbers. Altogether (n = 50), on average, OHCA cases/city rose 59% during April (p = 0·03). By June, however, after mitigating COVID-19 spread, cities with the highest OHCA escalations returned to (or approached) pre-COVID OHCA numbers while cities minimally affected by COVID-19 during April (and not experiencing OHCA increases), then had marked OHCA escalations when COVID-19 began to surge locally. European, Australian, and New Zealand cities mirrored the U.S. experience. Interpretation: Most metropolitan cities experienced profound escalations of OHCA generally paralleling local prevalence of COVID-19. Most of these patients were pronounced dead without COVID-19 testing. Funding: No funding was involved. Cities provided de-identified aggregate data collected routinely for standard quality assurance functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100815
StatePublished - Apr 2021

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