July 31, 1967

The Survivors of Cardiac ArrestA Psychiatric Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

JAMA. 1967;201(5):291-296. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130050025008

Ten survivors of a cardiac arrest who had been treated in a cardiac monitor unit were studied by psychiatric interviews six weeks or more after arrest. Not a single patient could face the full implications of the arrest and called forth various defense mechanisms to control the anxiety evoked by this experience. Frightening and violent dreams belied their often tranquil appearance. The patients developed various theories and explanations to enable them to integrate the experience of "having been dead and reborn." The arrest survivors as well as ten comparative patients without arrest who had been treated in the same monitor unit showed long-standing emotional problems including insomnia, irritability, and a restriction of their activities often beyond what was medically appropriate.