Learn CCO-CPR, Help UA Sarver Heart Center Launch a Clinical Research Study at the Pima County Fair


When you need a break from the sun and wind at the Pima County Fair, take a few minutes to visit the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center booth in Thurber Hall. You’ll find staff and volunteers ready to teach you chest-compression-only CPR, a lifesaving method developed by the UA Sarver Heart Center Resuscitation Research Group that has helped save more than 2,400 lives in Arizona alone since state officials started keeping track in 2005.

You’ll also be asked to help UA researchers launch a new clinical trial that will study another way doctors may be able to improve cardiac arrest survival rates. UA researchers, led by Karl Kern, MD, are asking if an early heart catheterization improves survival, regardless of what the ECG shows when a certain type of cardiac arrest patient arrives at the hospital.

Why is this important?

Cardiac arrest is a major public health issue, claiming nearly 300,000 lives in the United States each year. Survival rates are poor. Cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart suddenly stops pumping blood. In adults, this often occurs following a heart attack.

  • Only 40 percent of the people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are resuscitated and brought alive to the hospital.
  • Of those 40 percent brought to the hospital, only one in four survives to go home.

When a cardiac arrest patient makes it to the hospital alive, doctors run an electrocardiogram (ECG).

  • If the electrocardiogram (ECG) shows changes of a heart attack (an elevated ST segment), cardiac arrest patients have a coronary angiogram (heart catheterization).
  • When the ECG does not show an obvious heart attack (normal ST segment), the timing of the heart catheterization is decided on a case-by-case basis by treating doctors.

For this clinical study, called PEARL, researchers randomly will assign the normal ST segment patients into two groups:

  • Early heart catheterization: Patients who arrive at the hospital following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with normal ST Segment will receive an early heart catheterization within 90 minutes of arrival.
  • Control Group: Patients who arrive at the hospital following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, with normal ST Segment on their ECG, will receive standard post-arrest treatment. This means that the treating doctors will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a heart catheterization is necessary.

Both groups will be treated with the usual standard of care, including therapeutic hypothermia which is thought to protect the brain from injury due to decreased blood flow during the cardiac arrest.

Your help is needed to get the PEARL study started.

UA researchers are asking you to complete a community survey. This study falls under FDA Guidelines – Exception from Informed Consent for Emergency Research. Patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are usually unconscious and unable to give consent to participate in the study. FDA “exception from informed consent” regulations are strict and the research must meet specific federal regulations and local Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. The IRB gives the researcher the ability to enroll patients into the study when they cannot speak for themselves because of life-threatening injury or illness.

Before the UA starts this study, researchers need to inform the community about its purpose. Response to this survey helps the team know efforts to notify the community were received and whether you consider it acceptable to the community and to you. The survey also gives an option to opt out of this study.  For more information and to take the survey online, please visit heart.arizona.edu/Pearl. Click here to go directly to the Survey Link.

Who is leading this research? 

Karl B. Kern, MD
Professor, Medicine
University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Research Group 
Principal Investigator

“Currently only cardiac arrest patients with certain ECG findings after resuscitation (ST segment elevation) are recommended for emergent catheterization of the artery to look for blockages (coronary angiography). This study will examine if other post-cardiac arrest patients (those without ST segment elevation) might also benefit from early coronary angiography. We believe the answer to this question is extremely important as we continue to strive to improve long-term outcomes for cardiac arrest victims,” said Dr.  Kern.

Kwan S. Lee, MD
Assistant Professor
Banner – University Medical Center South
Director, Cardiac Catheterization Lab

“We are excited to have Southern Arizona lead in this important national study looking at new treatments for patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and the effort to further improve long-term survival,”  Dr.  Lee.

Who is funding this research?
The Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Biomedical Research Commission awarded Dr. Kern a three-year grant to conduct this study. Dr. Kern will lead a group of physicians at the Banner - University Medical Center, Tucson and South Campuses, and at the University of North Carolina, Maine Medical Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Minneapolis Heart Institute. 

Note to editors: Heart catheterization and ECG images are available. Photos of volunteers will be available once the fair begins.