Cooper Researcher Receives $2.4 Million NIH Grant to Study Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation

Stephen W. Trzeciak, MD, MPH, a critical care and emergency medicine specialist at Cooper University Health Care, is the recipient of a $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a research project grant (R01) to study neurological and cognitive effects of hyperoxia after cardiac arrest. Dr. Trzeciak is the lead researcher on the project, which will include multiple centers throughout the United States.

“During a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating entirely. Even if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can restart the heart, the majority of patients do not survive,” said Trzeciak. “This is primarily due to permanent brain damage from lack of blood flow to the brain.”

This new research will aim to find new ways to reduce brain damage after resuscitation from cardiac arrest.

Trzeciak and his colleagues have been involved in preliminary studies examining levels of supplemental oxygen delivered to the patient after the heart is restarted. Although it is already known that a lack of sufficient oxygen after resuscitation can worsen brain damage, it may also be true that the other end of the spectrum – raising blood oxygen to excessively high levels (termed “hyperoxia”) – is also associated with harm. In theory, excessive oxygen could increase the production of molecules called “oxygen free radicals” (collectively termed “oxidative stress”). These molecules are a main cause of brain damage after blood flow is restored with CPR.

This new NIH-funded research through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will measure levels of oxygen and oxidative stress immediately after resuscitation from cardiac arrest, and will determine their effects on long-term neurological function. The study will enroll more than 200 patients throughout all participating centers. Later phases of this research will be focused on novel approaches to reduce exposure to hyperoxia in post-cardiac arrest patients, with the ultimate goal of improving neurological outcomes.

“Only the most outstanding applications are being funded by the NIH because of fiscal constraints,” said Phillip Dellinger, MD, Head of Critical Care Medicine at Cooper. “This is a very competitive and prestigious award to be given to Dr. Trzeciak and the research team.”

Cooper University Hospital is a regional referral center for cardiac arrest victims. Local hospitals transfer their patients to the Cooper Resuscitation Center for post-cardiac arrest care. Cooper has been a leader in the use of therapeutic hyporthermia to reduce brain injury after cardiac arrest for more than five years and has been involved in several studies measuring outcomes of this technique.

“This is a significant grant for our program and will allow research conducted at Cooper to reach patients throughout the country,” said John P. Sheridan, Jr., President and CEO of The Cooper Health System. “We are proud to be a leader in medical research and our continuing efforts to analyze new life-saving modalities of care.”

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