Immediate Post-ROSC Management


  • A team-based approach to the management of the post-ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation) patient focuses on initiation of therapeutic hypothermia, treatment of the underlying cause with transfer to the cath lab where appropriate, and management of the post-cardiac arrest syndrome.
  • The approach below is based on the protocol developed by Stephen Bernard


Handover from paramedics, noting the following if known:

  • Age
  • Relevant past medical history
  • Previous functional status
  • Initial cardiac rhythm (VF/VT versus PEA/asystole)
  • Presence and duration of bystander CPR
  • EXACT total duration of arrest (ambulance first call time to ROSC time)
  • Number of DC shocks
  • Dose of adrenaline given

Initial actions:

  • ETT secured, waveform ETCO2 connected
  • Pulse oximeter connected
  • NIBP set for q2min
  • 12 lead ECG
  • Temperature probe inserted into naso-pharynx/ oesophagus/ bladder (NOT SKIN TEMPERATURE)
  • IV x2 patent
  • C-spine collar if head strike or attempted hanging
  • Portable CXR
  • Arterial line inserted and routine bloods sent (check glucose and blood gas)


  • Target SaO2 94-98%
  • ABG (not corrected for temperature) of a pO2 of 70-100 mmHg and a pCO2 of 40mmHg.


Blood pressure management

  • Target SBP 100 mmHg ( “normal” blood pressure is associated with improved outcomes)
  • higher blood pressure may be targeted in patients with known hypertension.
  • Hypertension (SBP>160mmHg) should be treated with additional sedation (or a propofol infusion) followed by a GTN infusion if needed.

Heart rate

  • Bradycardia (35-50/minute) is a physiological effect of hypothermia and does not require treatment.
  • If bradycardia is not present, suspect something else is wrong!


  • Commence adrenaline infusion as first line
  • If the dose of adrenaline exceeds 20 mcg/min or the lactate level is increasing, then an infusion of noradrenaline should be considered.
  • If a further fluid challenge is required for CVP<12mmHg, infuse a bolus (i.e. 500mL) of ice-cold 0.9% saline.

Transfer appropriate patients to the cath lab

  • VF arrest
    — ideally all patients (may not be feasible after hours)
    — especially: STEMI, shock requiring IABP, recurrent dysrhythmias
    — if not performed immediately after hours should be first on next elective list
  • non-VF arrest
    — suspected cardiac cause with STEMI, shock requiring IABP, recurrent dysrhythmias


  • On-going sedation is required during mechanical ventilation and cooling.
  • Hypothermia is also sedating so only modest doses of sedation should be administered.
  • Start an infusion of midazolam (max 5mg/hour) or propofol 50mg/hr if blood pressure is stable. Use adrenaline or noradrenaline to support blood pressure as needed.
  • If shivering or movement occurs despite sedation at the above dosage administer a long acting non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking drug (e.g. rocuronium 100mg IV)
  • Avoid calcium infusions for asymptomatic hypocalcemia as calcium us potentially toxic to injured neurons


A core temperature of 32-34 C should be achieved as quickly as possible using the following strategies.

  • Administer midazolam 1-5mg IV, and commence an infusion @ 2-5mg/hr
  • Administer a large dose of a non-depolarizing muscle relaxant (eg rocuronium 100mg IV)
  • Infuse 30ml/kg of ice cold crystalloid fluid (0.9% saline at 4°C) as soon as possible, at 100mls/min using a standard giving set and pressure bag inflated to 300mmHg
  • Apply surface cooling using a cooling vest with a cooling machine (e.g. Gaymar Meditherm III) temperature set to 33°C and the rate of cooling set to the “hare” setting. Note: the vest is radiolucent and does not need to be removed for cardiac catherisation.

References and Links

  • Kern KB. Optimal treatment of patients surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. JACC Cardiovasc Interv. 2012 Jun;5(6):597-605. doi: 10.1016/j.jcin.2012.01.017. PMID: 22721654.
  • Kilgannon JH, Jones AE, Shapiro NI, Angelos MG, Milcarek B, Hunter K, Parrillo JE, Trzeciak S; Emergency Medicine Shock Research Network (EMShockNet) Investigators. Association between arterial hyperoxia following resuscitation from cardiac arrest and in-hospital mortality. JAMA. 2010 Jun 2;303(21):2165-71.PMID: 20516417.
  • Peberdy MA, Callaway CW, Neumar RW, Geocadin RG, Zimmerman JL, Donnino M, Gabrielli A, Silvers SM, Zaritsky AL, Merchant R, Vanden Hoek TL, Kronick SL. Part 9: post-cardiac arrest care: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2010 Nov 2;122(18 Suppl 3):S768-86. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.971002. Review. Erratum in: Circulation. 2011 Feb 15;123(6):e237. Circulation. 2011 Oct 11;124(15):e403. PMID: 20956225.
  • Trzeciak S, Jones AE, Kilgannon JH, Milcarek B, Hunter K, Shapiro NI, Hollenberg SM, Dellinger P, Parrillo JE. Significance of arterial hypotension after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. Crit Care Med. 2009 Nov;37(11):2895-903; quiz 2904. PMID: 19866506.

CCC 700 6

Critical Care


Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC


  1. Temperature in post resuscitation care.
    According to resus.org.uk it should be 32-36, and you mentioned 32-34.
    Which one to follow.

  2. Hi Mohammed
    The best approach is to follow your local protocols for targeted temperature management after cardiac arrest
    Some centres still aim for therapeutic hypothermia (T32-34C) others primarily avoid fever (aim for T36)
    this remains an area of active research
    T32-36 is the most generic answer to this question!

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