Heart Attack Death Risk Greater on Higher Floors

A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) indicates that the survival rates of cardiac arrest (heart attack) is considerably worse at higher floors. Survival rates were compared by residential floor in Toronto. The article implied that the longer time necessary to reach patients after having arrived on the scene was likely a factor. Further, it was suggested that the longer time required to reach the hospital from the higher floors could be a factor, since cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is suboptimal until the patient is in the hospital.

The study examined “911” response calls to high rise residential buildings in Toronto and found that the best survival rates were on the first and second floors (4.2 percent). Above the second floor, the survival rate was 40 percent less, at 2.6 percent. Above the 16th floor, the survival rate dropped 80 percent from the first and second floor (0.9 percent). There were no survivors above the 25th floor (Figure).

The study concluded: “With continuing construction of high-rise buildings, it is important to understand the potential effect of vertical height on patient outcomes after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.”