Cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the United States, yet it receives much less government funding for research than other leading causes of death, researchers report.
Adjusted for inflation, U.S. National Institutes of Health funding for cardiac arrest research fell from $35.4 million in 2007 to $28.5 million in 2016, the study authors said.
Cardiac arrest — the sudden loss of heart function — claims more than 450,000 lives in the United States each year, according to the Institute of Medicine.
“If you look at the public health burden of cardiac arrest, it’s a major public health issue,” said senior author Dr. Robert Neumar. He is chair of the University of Michigan Health System’s emergency medicine department.
In 2015, the NIH invested about $13,000 for each death from diabetes versus $91 for each death from cardiac arrest, the study authors noted.
That year, other NIH research funding included: $9,000 per cancer death; $2,200 for each stroke death; and $2,100 for each death from heart disease, the researchers reported.
The findings were published online July 12 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Right now, if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital, they have a less than one in 10 chance of surviving. If they have a sudden cardiac arrest inside the hospital, they have a one in four chance of surviving,” Neumar said in a journal news release.
Research on cardiac arrest received about 0.2 percent of total NIH research grant funding in 2015, the investigators noted.
While research into other diseases often receives funding from private sources, such as drug companies or medical device makers, this isn’t true of cardiac arrest. It relies heavily on government funding, the study authors explained.
Lead author Ryan Coute, a medical student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, added that “funding of cardiac arrest research is a critical step towards improving survival of cardiac arrest.”
Neumar suggested, “One of the challenges could be that we don’t have enough scientists applying for grants in cardiac arrest research. It could also be a chicken-or-the-egg scenario where there isn’t enough money to do research, so researchers study other diseases.”
Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply. Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, and it often leads to death because the heart suddenly stops working properly.
The American Heart Association has more on cardiac arrest.