Predisposing factors that may preclude a cardiocerebral arrest should be eliminated when possible for every critical patient.
For example, electrolyte and acid-base imbalances should be identified and corrected, patients with respiratory distress should
be intensely observed and receive supplemental oxygen. Shock, trauma, sepsis, hypothermia, and cardiac arrhythmias may all
result in a cardiocerebral arrest if not treated aggressively and accurately. In anesthetized patients, anesthetic overdose,
hypoventilation, inadequate fluid volume, and extreme hypothermia should be avoided, as these factors may predispose a patient
to an arrest. Positive resuscitation statistics are highest on those patients that were healthy before and whose arrest was
initiated by acute and easily correctable problems
Cardiopulmonary arrest (CPA) is the cessation of functional ventilation and effective circulation. Apneustic gasps may occur,
but this action does not produce effective ventilation. Similarly, cardiac electrical or muscle activity may persist, but
effective tissue perfusion does not occur. Clinical signs of CPA include absence of auscultable heartbeat, lack of palpable
pulse, apnea or agonal gasping, absence of bleeding, loss of consciousness, and pupillary dilation.
The patients most likely to be successfully resuscitated are those which were normal prior to the incident resulting in an
arrest, as well as those in which resuscitation techniques were initiated immediately. It is important to have a "CPCR station"
at the hospital which is kept in a state of continual readiness. A crash cart should contain an assortment of endotracheal
tubes, catheters, syringes, gauze, and cardiac drugs already drawn up in appropriate sized syringes. In addition, sterile
instruments should be available. The station must be near an oxygen source, an electrocardiogram, and a defibrillator with
internal and external paddles. It is often helpful to have an emergency chart with a list of cardiac drugs and dosages posted
in this area.
When an arrest occurs, the veterinary team must respond with urgency, but not with panic. Proceed in an orderly fashion though
the "ABC's" of CPR, keeping in mind not to jump out of sequence.
"A" is for airway
The first step of CPR may very well be the most important, since subsequent efforts are futile if the animal is not receiving
oxygen. As soon as the clinician has determined that CPA has occurred (no palpable pulse, no auscultable heartbeat), the animal
should be intubated. Due to the importance of this step, the clinician must make SURE that the endotracheal tube is in the
trachea. This can be done by 1) direct visualization of the tube entering the glottis or 2) palpation of the tube in proper
position between the arytenoid cartilages, or 3) confirmation via capnography. If the tube is correctly placed within the
trachea, upon ventilation, a number should be greater than zero. The cuff should be inflated and the tube secured in place,
with a visible marker to monitor for tube migration. If the airway is not patent and intubation is not feasible, an emergency
tracheostomy should be performed immediately.
"B" is for breathing
Once the airway is established, the animal should be ventilated several times with 100% oxygen and then quickly checked for
return of the heartbeat by either auscultation or palpation of femoral pulses. If the patient is in surgery, the inhalant
anesthetic should be turned off immediately; if on an anesthetic ventilator, increase the FiO2 to 100% with the tubing and bag flushed or replaced. Artificial ventilation is administered by intermittent positive pressure
breathing using either an Ambu-bag with 100% oxygen or an anesthetic machine. Animals should be hyperventilated, with rapid
ventilations occurring simultaneously with cardiac compressions. Simultaneous ventilations and external chest compressions
will increased blood flow and cardiac output due to the effect of generalized increased intrathoracic pressure on the thoracic
pump mechanism. The increased ventilatory rate tends to thwart probable metabolic acidosis by removing excess CO2 that invariably develops with CPA.
Recommended peak inspiratory pressures are 20 cm water (dog) and 15 cm water (cat). When ventilations are simultaneous with
compressions, higher pressures (20-30 cm water) may be required. Animals with pneumothorax, pleural fluid, pulmonary edema,
hemorrhage, or pneumonia may also require higher pressures to obtain lung expansion. Inspiratory time should be less than
1.5 seconds to allow for adequate venous return as the intrathoracic pressure drops. It is also important that expiratory
pressure be allowed to fall to 0 cm H2O between forced inspirations. Generally, positive-end-expiratory-pressure (PEEP) is not indicated in CPA because it diminishes
venous return, cardiac output, and the effectiveness of the thoracic pump mechanism. Airway tubing should be monitored for
pulmonary fluid which may impede ventilation; suction should be utilized to remove fluid, in addition to removing tubing temporarily
to tip the patient to remove fluid from the trach tube. In order to ensure pulmonary compliance, it may be necessary to perform
a thoracocentesis on any patient with known or probable pleural effusion or pneumothorax.