This is a story about hypothermia treatment following resuscitation from cardiac arrest.
But the story neglects to clearly define the specific condition in which the treatment might be valuable, whether sudden cardiac arrest of myocardial infarction, which are different entities with different causes, outcomes, and incidence. How eligibility for treatment is assessed is not explained; neither are the costs or potential harms. The article, including physicians interviewed, describes benefits associated with the treatment, although it did not include sound information about the number or type of patients that might benefit. While the story included quotes from several clinicians who provide the treatment, and one patient who had had the treatment, it failed to back up their anecdotes with clinical evidence. This article provides little clarity about how or when the treatment would be used and exaggerates expectation for improvement in survival when projecting benefit to an unclearly specified population of those who have cardiac events.
Evidence, costs, and input from independent sources are important components of health/medical news stories. All were missing in this story.
The story does not include any information about the expense of this treatment; it also does not indicate whether hospitals need to purchase special equipment in order to provide this treatment.
The story estimates that this treatment could save "tens of thousands" of lives, though this estimate is several orders of magnitude greater than the data in the article supports.
It contains a quote from a physician who stated that they "believe the people who do go home have fewer neurological problems," but no evidence is given for this.
There was no discussion of harms associated with this treatment or the frequency with which these are typically observed.
The person used as an example of the benefits of the treatment developed pneumonia in the course of his recovery from his cardiac arrest and his hypothemia treatment, which may be a side-effect of the treatment.
Although there is a physician interviewed who provided some estimates of outcomes from the hospital in which he practices, the story did not provide information about the source(s) of the evidence supporting the clinical assertions made in the story.
The numbers in this story don't square up as describe. The story estimates that the number of people who are killed by acute cardiac arrest in this country is 250,000 per year. But the most recent estimate from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/) is that this is the cause of death for 171,00 people per year.
The story engages in treatment mongering by claiming that this treatment could save "tens of thousands" of lives each year. However, using the data in the story, (250,000 cases of cardiac arrest; out of 100 cardiac arrests, 7-8 that undergo hypothermia walk out of the hospital as compared to one or two fewer in those who don't undergo hypothermia) hypothermia has the potential for an additional 500 people to walk out of the hospital. This is 500 more happy outcomes but not "tens of thousands".
While quotes from several physicans were included in this story as well as quotes from a patient who had had the treatment, the sources of the background information about the treatment and the studies about its benefit were not mentioned. So readers get the perspectives of "believers" minus any hard evidence.
The sequence of when this treatment would be used – and the decisions about how and when it would be used – are unclear. So, too, then is any discussion about what the options are.
The story indicated that this treatment is not available at all hospitals.
It is not clear from this story whether this is a new treatment or just a newly introduced treatment at this particular hospital.
The story stated "The American Heart Association has approved the procedure in the wake of extensive overseas clinical trials", however at the American Heart Association web site, there is mention of this treatment from a media advisory of February 20, 2002 – more than five years ago.
And the American Heart Association doesn't technically "approve" any procedures – making this a simplistic, naive and inaccurate statement in the story.
There is no evidence that this story relied solely or largely on a news release.