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False cardiac arrests: the right time to turn away?
  1. Gary Kenward1,
  2. Alan Robinson2,
  3. Sandra Bradburn2,
  4. Richard Steeds2
  1. 1Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2University Hospital (Queen Elizabeth), Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Richard Steeds
 University Hospital (Queen Elizabeth), Metchley Park Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TH, UK; rick.steeds{at}


Aim: Cardiac arrest teams may be activated only to find that the patient does not require cardiac or respiratory resuscitation. Members of the cardiac arrest team are drawn from medical personnel with other responsibilities who may disperse quickly, leaving ongoing care of the patient to existing ward staff. The outcome for such false cardiac arrests, however, is rarely reported. The objective of this study was to determine the causes of false cardiac arrest team alerts (FCAs) and to assess the outcome of these patients relative to the general hospital population.

Setting: Tertiary care hospital.

Participants: Patients subject to a cardiac arrest call who were found not to require basic or advanced cardiac life support on arrival.

Results: In 512 events over a 1-year period, patients suffering FCAs were more likely to survive compared to patients suffering cardiac arrest (15% vs 73%, odds ratio (OR) 14.95; χ2 p⩽0.0001), but significantly less likely to survive than the general hospitalised population (73% vs 97%, OR 14.15; χ2 p⩽0.0001). The cause of the FCA was often minimised as collapse or vasovagal syncope; in 58% (87/150) of cases no further action was taken by the attending medical team. Patients suffering FCAs tended to be long-stay patients with a worse outcome at weekends.

Conclusion: In areas lacking a medical alert, outreach or patient at risk system, particular attention should be paid to optimising care of those suffering FCAs.

  • DNAR, do not attempt to resuscitate
  • FCAs, false cardiac arrest team alerts
  • VF, ventricular fibrillation
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  • No external sources of funding were employed for this work.

  • Competing interest statements: No competing interests to declare

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