Comparison of IHCA vs OHCA Patient Conditions and Survival

Healthcare professionals and emergency responders regularly encounter two main types of cardiac arrest scenarios - In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA) and Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA). This article explains what is In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA) and Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) including their causes, risk factors, treatment, and survival rate outcomes.


What is IHCA?

IHCA or In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, refers to the unexpected cessation of cardiac activity in a patient who is already admitted to a hospital or other medical facility. Unlike other cardiac events, IHCA occurs within the controlled environment of a healthcare setting, where medical personnel are equipped with specialized training and resources to respond to emergencies promptly. Despite this advantage, IHCA remains a formidable challenge for healthcare providers, as the underlying causes can be diverse and complex. Recognizing and responding swiftly to IHCA events can be crucial in increasing a patient's chances of survival and minimizing potential neurological damage.


Causes of IHCA

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Underlying heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and various arrhythmias can lead to IHCA.
  • Respiratory Disorders: Serious respiratory conditions like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can contribute to IHCA.
  • Neurological Conditions: Patients with neurological disorders, such as strokes or seizures, may be at higher risk of experiencing IHCA.
  • Sepsis and Infections: Severe infections or sepsis can cause a systemic inflammatory response that affects the heart's function and leads to IHCA.


Risk Factors of IHCA

  • Medication Errors: Inappropriate dosages, adverse drug interactions, or delayed administration of essential medications can trigger cardiac arrest in hospitalized patients.
  • Postoperative Complications: Following surgical procedures, patients may experience complications like bleeding, infections, or anesthesia-related issues, leading to IHCA.
  • Acute Blood Loss: Significant blood loss from trauma or medical procedures can result in IHCA due to decreased oxygen delivery to vital organs, including the heart.
  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Severe imbalances in electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium can disrupt the heart's electrical activity and lead to IHCA.
  • Respiratory Distress: Acute respiratory problems, such as airway obstructions, respiratory depression, or acute respiratory failure, can precipitate IHCA.
  • Dialysis Complications: Patients undergoing dialysis, especially those with underlying kidney disease, are at increased risk of IHCA due to potential fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Septic Shock: Patients with severe sepsis may progress to septic shock, leading to significant cardiovascular instability and IHCA.
  • Patient Characteristics: Advanced age, comorbidities, reduced functional status, and a history of cardiac events increase the likelihood of IHCA.
  • Environmental and Procedural Factors: Patients in areas of the hospital with limited monitoring or supervision are at higher risk of delayed recognition of cardiac arrest. Certain medical interventions and procedures can also precipitate IHCA in vulnerable patients.

Blood Pressure Category
Systolic (Upper)
Diastolic (Lower)
Health Risks
Less than 120 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Low risk of heart disease or stroke
Maintain healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, no smoking)
120-129 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Doubled risk of cardiovascular complications
Make lifestyle changes (lose weight if overweight, increase physical activity, limit alcohol)
Hypertension Stage 1
130-139 mm Hg
or 80-89 mm Hg
Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease
Lifestyle changes and potentially medication under doctor's guidance
Hypertension Stage 2
140 mm Hg or Higher
or 90 mm Hg or Higher
High risk; can lead to heart failure, vision loss, dementia
Medication required in addition to lifestyle changes as recommended by doctor
Hypertensive Crisis
Higher than 180 mm Hg
nd/or Higher than 120 mm Hg
Immediate danger of life-threatening complications
Seek emergency medical care immediately
Cardiac Arrest
Heart Attack
Sudden loss of heart function, leading to collapse
Blockage in a coronary artery, affecting blood flow to the heart muscle
Interruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to brain damage
Main Cause
Electrical malfunction of the heart
Blockage in coronary arteries
Blockage or rupture of blood vessels in the brain
Circulation Affected
Entire body
Heart muscle
Brain tissue
105Sudden collapse, unconsciousness, no pulse
Chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath
Sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech/73
Emergency Response
Immediate CPR and defibrillation
Activate emergency medical services, chew aspirin
Activate emergency medical services, FAST assessment (Face, Arms, Speech, Time)
CPR, defibrillation
Thrombolytic therapy, angioplasty, stenting
Thrombolytic therapy, clot retrieval,
Long-term Management
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), medication management
Medication management, lifestyle changes, cardiac rehabilitation
Medication, rehabilitation, lifestyle changes
Dependent on prompt CPR and defibrillation, underlying health conditions
Dependent on extent of heart muscle damage, effectiveness of intervention
Dependent on severity of brain damage, rehabilitation progress
Risk Factors
Previous heart conditions, arrhythmias, electrolyte imbalances
Atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, diabetes
Hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation

What is OHCA?

OHCA or Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, refers to a medical emergency in which a person's heart suddenly stops beating outside of a medical facility or hospital setting, ranging from homes and workplaces to public spaces. The urgency to reach the patient quickly, often coupled with limited medical resources, heightens the complexity of managing OHCA cases.

The survival rate for OHCA is generally lower compared to IHCA, primarily due to the time it takes to initiate life-saving interventions and transport the patient to a medical facility. Immediate bystander CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and defibrillation, if available, are vital links in the chain of survival for OHCA victims. The successful resuscitation of an OHCA patient is heavily dependent on the cooperation of bystanders and the rapid response of emergency medical services (EMS) teams.


Causes of OHCA

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): The most common cause of OHCA is CAD, where the blood vessels supplying the heart become narrowed or blocked, leading to a heart attack.
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heart rhythms, such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, can cause the heart to stop pumping effectively and result in OHCA.
  • Respiratory Conditions: Severe respiratory issues, like suffocation, drowning, or choking, can lead to decreased oxygen supply and cardiac arrest.
  • Drug Overdose: Certain drugs, especially opioids or central nervous system depressants, can cause respiratory depression and cardiac arrest when taken in excessive amounts.
  • Trauma: Severe trauma from accidents, falls, or injuries can disrupt the heart's function and trigger OHCA.
  • Electrocution: Electrical shocks can interfere with the heart's electrical signals and induce cardiac arrest.


Risk Factors of OHCA

  • Age: The risk of OHCA increases with age, and older adults are more susceptible to cardiac events.
  • Previous Cardiac History: Individuals with a history of heart attacks, heart failure, or arrhythmias are at higher risk of OHCA.
  • Gender: Men tend to have a higher risk of OHCA compared to women.
  • Family History: A family history of cardiac conditions can increase the likelihood of OHCA.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: Sedentary lifestyles and lack of regular exercise can elevate the risk of cardiac issues and OHCA.
  • Tobacco Use: Smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption are associated with an increased risk of cardiac events, including OHCA.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight and obesity are risk factors for various cardiovascular problems, contributing to OHCA risk.
  • High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled hypertension can strain the heart and raise the chances of OHCA.
  • Diabetes: Poorly managed diabetes is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and OHCA.
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Substance abuse, including excessive alcohol consumption and illicit drug use, can lead to OHCA.
  • Environmental Factors: Extreme heat or cold, air pollution, and other environmental factors may contribute to OHCA risk.
  • Delay in Seeking Medical Help: Delayed or lack of access to emergency medical services after the onset of symptoms can reduce the chances of survival in OHCA cases.

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Blood Pressure Chart by Age

Age Group
Min Systolic/Diastolic
Normal Range
Max Systolic/Diastolic
1-12 months
Consult pediatrician if outside normal range. Cuff sizing is critical.
1-5 years
High BP in children may indicate underlying condition. Lifestyle factors.
6-13 years
Obesity, family history increase risk. Promote healthy habits early.
14-19 years
Adolescent rise normal. Rule out secondary causes if elevated.
20-24 years
Stressors, medications may impact. Start monitoring if high-normal.
25-29 years
Dietary changes, exercise for elevated readings. Birth control effects.
30-39 years
110/77 - 111/78
122/81 - 123/82
134/85 - 135/86
Monitor closely if readings increasing with age.
40-49 years
112/79 - 115/80
125/83 - 127/84
137/87 - 139/88
Lifestyle changes proven to reduce hypertension risk.
50-64 years
116/81 - 121/83
129/85 - 134/87
142/89 - 147/91
White coat effect common. Home monitoring advised.
65+ years
130+ Systolic Risk
Frailty, medications, conditions factored in management.

Response Time and Available Resources

In cases of In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA), the response time is faster because hospitals have medical personnel trained in resuscitation on-site. They can quickly respond and provide life-saving help. Hospitals also have essential medical equipment like defibrillators available, ready to use during IHCA. Patients are continuously monitored, allowing early detection of emergencies for timely action.

On the other hand, Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) scenarios face challenges in response time. Bystanders, who are not medical professionals, are often the first to respond. It may take time to reach the patient, especially in crowded or remote areas, leading to delays in help. Unlike hospitals, OHCA settings may lack medical resources like defibrillators, making it harder for bystanders to provide immediate care. EMS teams must navigate obstacles to reach the patient, causing further delays in critical medical assistance.


Treatment Protocols for In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA)

  1. Immediate Response: Call specialized medical personnel trained in resuscitation protocols. Request backup and support as needed.
  2. Basic Life Support (BLS):  Begin high-quality CPR with chest compressions to maintain blood circulation.
  3. Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS): Administer electric shocks or ACLS drugs, such as epinephrine, amiodarone, and vasopressors, to support circulation and restore cardiac function. Consider endotracheal intubation or supraglottic airway devices to secure the airway and improve oxygenation. Utilize cardiac monitors to track the patient's heart rhythm and vital signs throughout resuscitation efforts.
  4. Identify and Treat Underlying Causes: Identify and treat any underlying medical conditions or triggers that led to the cardiac arrest, such as electrolyte imbalances or drug reactions.
  5. Post-Resuscitation Care: Ensure adequate blood pressure and oxygen delivery to vital organs. Continuously monitor the patient's cardiac rhythm and vital signs. Implement therapeutic hypothermia or targeted temperature management if indicated to improve neurological outcomes.
  6. Transfer to Critical Care Unit: Transfer to the appropriate critical care unit for further monitoring and management. Continuation of intensive care measures as needed.


Treatment Protocols for Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA)

  1. Immediate Response: Recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, such as unresponsiveness and absence of breathing or normal breathing. Call for emergency medical services (EMS to request professional medical assistance.
  2. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): Initiate high-quality CPR with chest compressions, maintaining a compression rate and depth as per current guidelines. Provide rescue breaths using the mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-mask technique (unless contraindicated).
  3. Use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): If available, attach the AED pads to the patient's chest. The AED will analyze the heart rhythm, and if it detects a shockable rhythm like ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, it will deliver a shock to restore normal heart rhythm.
  4. Early Advanced Life Support (ALS): Upon EMS arrival, paramedics will continue advanced life support measures, including advanced airway management, intravenous medications, and continuous cardiac monitoring.
  5. Post-Resuscitation Care: Relay critical information to the receiving hospital for seamless continuity of care. Transfer care to the hospital's medical team upon arrival for further treatment and monitoring.


Early recognition, prompt initiation of CPR, and timely use of AEDs are vital to improving survival rates in OHCA cases. In both IHCA and OHCA scenarios, early involvement of medical professionals and the implementation of advanced life support measures significantly increase the chances of a successful outcome for patients experiencing cardiac arrest.


Survival Rates and Outcomes

The short-term survival rate for IHCA is generally higher compared to OHCA. Studies suggest that the short-term survival rate for OHCA is around 10% to 15%, while approximately 20% to 25% of patients who experience IHCA survive to hospital discharge. 


IHCA Long-Term Prognosis

  • Despite short-term survival, IHCA survivors may face significant neurological challenges. Some patients experience neurological deficits or cognitive impairments due to the lack of oxygen to the brain during the arrest.
  • Long-term outcomes depend on the underlying cause of IHCA, the duration of resuscitation, and the patient's overall health. Rehabilitation and post-resuscitation care are essential for optimizing long-term recovery.


OHCA Long-Term Prognosis

  • Survivors of OHCA often face a higher risk of neurological impairment due to the delay in starting resuscitative measures and potential longer periods of low blood flow to the brain during the arrest.
  • Long-term outcomes for OHCA survivors depend on factors such as the duration of cardiac arrest, time to resuscitation, and the presence of any underlying health conditions. These factors influence the quality of life and functional outcomes for survivors.
  • Some OHCA survivors may experience a condition called post-cardiac arrest syndrome, which includes a range of physiological derangements that can impact multiple organ systems and lead to complications after resuscitation.


Factors that Affect the Survival Rates 

Promptness of intervention, presence of witnesses, the quality of CPR and defibrillation, and post-arrest care are key factors that influence survival rates in both IHCA and OHCA scenarios. Early recognition, immediate activation of EMS, and bystander CPR are critical in OHCA settings, while the availability of trained medical personnel and quick access to advanced life support measures benefit IHCA cases. Comprehensive post-resuscitation care and rehabilitation further contribute to optimizing both short-term and long-term outcomes for cardiac arrest survivors in both settings.


Implications for Prehospital and Hospital Care

IHCA and OHCA have significant implications for prehospital and hospital care systems. In OHCA, rapid EMS response and early bystander intervention are critical for improving survival rates. Public awareness and training in CPR and AED use play a vital role. In IHCA, hospitals need well-trained resuscitation teams and standardized protocols for quick responses. Post-resuscitation care and neurological support are crucial for IHCA survivors. Strategies for improvement include:


  • Enhancing early recognition
  • Optimizing early interventions
  • Strengthening EMS systems
  • Establishing post-resuscitation care units
  • Implementing quality improvement initiatives
  • Promoting research and data collection


By implementing these strategies, care systems can enhance outcomes and provide better care for cardiac arrest patients in both settings.


Advancements and Future Perspectives

Recent advancements in IHCA and OHCA management encompass novel treatment strategies and technologies that hold promise for improving survival rates and post-arrest care. Ongoing research in areas like personalized resuscitation strategies, neuroprotective therapies, and predictive analytics aims to further enhance outcomes and transform cardiac arrest management in the future. Incorporating these advancements into prehospital and hospital care systems may lead to better survival rates and improved quality of life for cardiac arrest patients.


Understanding the differences between In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (IHCA) and Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) is crucial for optimizing cardiac arrest response and patient outcomes in both settings. Tailored response protocols, timely intervention, and specialized post-resuscitation care can significantly improve survival rates. Staying informed about the latest developments in cardiac arrest care and emergency response, participating in training, promoting community awareness, and supporting research efforts can enhance preparedness and response, ultimately saving more lives.