The practice of giving heart patients an adrenaline shot following a cardiac arrest will be put to the test by researchers for the very first time.
Patients whose hearts have stopped beating are routinely given the drug by paramedics to help resuscitate the heart on the assumption that it improves the chances of survival.
But doctors are concerned that this practice may be causing severe brain damage in survivors of cardiac arrest.
Researchers at Warwick University and the University of Surrey will be conducting a study to establish whether or not the use of adrenaline causes more harm than good.
In the trial 8,000 patients who have a cardiac arrest in Wales, the West Midlands, North East, the south coast and London will be given either an adrenaline injection or an injection of a placebo.
Neither the patients nor the paramedics administering the injection will know which the patient has received.
An advertising drive will take place before the trial begins in autumn in which patients will be given the opportunity to opt out of the study.
What is unacceptable is to continue giving a treatment that could be doing more harm than good
Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: “It is important to remember that whilst adrenaline is routinely used to treat a cardiac arrest, we don’t actually know whether this is a safe and effective practice. The concern is it could be doing patients more harm than good. The only way to answer this crucially important question is to do a well-designed clinical trial.
“It is always difficult to conduct a trial in situations where people are too ill to give their consent. But there are well established ethical guidelines for undertaking such studies. What is unacceptable is to continue giving a treatment that could be doing more harm than good.
“Only by undertaking difficult studies of this kind can we be sure that patients are receiving the highest possible standard of care and have the best chance of a good outcome.”