OPEN Research Support

Consultant and Professor
Ann Dorthe Olsen Zwisler
REHPA, Knowledge center for rehabilitation and palliative care, Odense University Hospital and the University of Southern Denmark

Projekt styring
Projekt status    Sampling ongoing
Data indsamlingsdatoer
Start 01.01.2019  
Slut 31.12.2019  

Exploring life after cardiac arrest

Short summary

Recovery after a cardiac arrest can be complicated by brain injury and emotional trauma. Rehabilitation after cardiac arrest is recommended but more knowledge is needed on the consequences of cardiac arrest before rehabilitation interventions can be implemented. This cross-sectional study will explore the long term mental, physical and social consequences of cardiac arrest. The study will collect data from national patient registries and via a national survey of survivors and relatives. The results will provide new knowledge on life after cardiac arrest and facilitate the design of new rehabilitation interventions for survivors and their relatives. 


The number of people surviving a cardiac arrest is increasing, but after the acute phase ends, many survivors suffer an uncertain future, due to the mental, physical and social consequences of cardiac arrest. Most survivors of cardiac arrest will have a new or ongoing cardiac condition, they may suffer mental trauma due to surviving a near death experience and reduced oxygen levels to the brain during their arrest, can cause brain injury. Consequently, survivors may have difficulties returning to work, caring for their families or taking part in their usual social activities. However, until now, research studies have concentrated on reporting medical outcomes after cardiac arrest, or only

collected data up to six months after arrest. They do not fully consider the long term work, social or family impact of surviving a cardiac arrest. 

In addition, up to 85% of cardiac arrests occur in homes, meaning relatives are often witness to the event or have performed resuscitation on a relative. While the survivor may not remember their arrest, the relative may be left with fear, anxiety and guilt. Furthermore, relatives may find themselves in the role of caregiver to their loved one, due to physical, cognitive or emotional problems caused by the cardiac arrest. 

Rehabilitation after cardiac arrest has been recommended by the European resuscitation council and has shown positive benefits for other patient groups who have suffered a brain injury or cardiac event. However, there is currently a lack of knowledge on what the content of rehabilitation for cardiac arrest survivors should be or when during recovery it should occur.

The aim of this study is to provide data on the long-term consequences of surviving a cardiac arrest for survivors and relatives. The results will be used to design and test a new rehabilitation and aftercare interventions for survivors of cardiac arrest and their relatives.

Description of the cohort

Adults who have survived a cardiac arrest up to six years previously, and their relatives.

Data and biological material

Data will be collected from survivors and relatives via questionnaires using patient reported outcomes . In addition, data will be collected via the Danish out of hospital cardiac arrest registry (circumstances of cardiac arrest), and thereafter data from national registries (co-morbidity burden, living arrangements, education, employment), .

Collaborating researchers and departments

Hammel Neurocentre

  • Professor of Neurorehabilitation Jørgen Feldbeck Neilsen

University of Glasgow, UK

  • Professor Rod Taylor

University of Gothenberg

  • Senior researcher Åsa Axelsson  

Publications associated with the project

Tang LH, Zwisler A-D, på vegne af workshop deltegere og DANCAS-netværket. Rehabilitering efter hjertestop - Vi kan helt sikkert gøre det bedre! Cardiologisk Forum. 2019 ed. :30–7.