“It bothers me when I cannot answer a question,” Dr. Paul Dorian says.
A few years ago, a patient, having survived a sudden cardiac arrest asked Dorian
if there were other survivors out there like him.
Dorian didn’t know the answer.
Now, the University of Toronto Medicine professor, along with a group of researchers – all part of the Canadian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (CanROC) – has teamed up with CANet to search for answers.
The Canadian Sudden Cardiac Arrest Network Registry (C-SCAN) will be the country’s first comprehensive database of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) cases.
“We have no idea how many people in Canada get cardiac arrests,” Dorian says.
“Is the number going up or down? How many survive? What’s their average age? Does it affect more men or women? We simply don’t know.”
CANet’s role will go beyond tallying numbers and the details of age and sex.
“With CANet’s help, we will have an idea of patients’ health conditions before and after they suffered from SCA,” Dorian says.
He and his team will get to know the patient’s medical history; what happened in the minutes, hours, and days leading up to a SCA? Did they, for example, have a heart attack last week or were they complaining of chest pain a month ago? How many patients survived SCA? Has there been a follow-up?
So far, most SCA-related research use public reporting, and death certificates to identify and classify SCA cases.
C-SCAN will go beyond these limited sources of information; it will not only use CanROC’s existing database of SCA cases but also include coroner’s reports – a vital trove of health-related information, which are usually buried under slow-moving administrative and bureaucratic procedures.
CANet, Dorian mentions, is critical in establishing relationships with coroner’s offices.
“C-SCAN, a comprehensive, unique registry will help us fully understand the causes and outcomes of SCA,” Dorian says. An increased understanding will help doctors formulate better prediction and prevention strategies.
The C-SCAN initiative will contribute to CANet’s strategic goal of achieving a 10 per cent drop in sudden cardiac death across Canada.
Dorian has plans beyond the registry.
He highlights two potential offshoots of the CANet-funded C-SCAN project – one involves teaching 9-1-1 dispatchers to give better phone instructions to bystanders who call in to report a SCA.
Another is to educate the public to recognize warning signs of an impending SCA, teaching them to use Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), and strategically placing AEDs in easy-to-find locations throughout buildings, and public spaces.
In his quest to reduce the occurrence of SCAs, Dorian is utilizing a critical pillar of CANet – its patient partners.
“Patient partners are very important for us,” Dorian says. “They help us better understand how SCAs and other cardiac rhythm disorders impact patients as well as their families.”
They are also, according to Dorian, powerful advocates who work with city councils and government bodies to promote increased CPR and AED training and raise awareness for inherited cardiac rhythm disorders and SCAs.
“CANet, with its resources, funding and patient partners are helping us apply our knowledge in better, more effective ways,” Dorian says.
Ultimately, the C-SCAN project, with its detailed tally of SCA cases, patient histories, and other details – the location of the SCAs, actions taken by paramedics, patient survival rates, for example – will be critical for implementing effective prediction and prevention strategies.
“You cannot improve what you cannot measure,” Dorian says.
He is hunting for answers. CANet is right there with him.