Ambitious research initiative aims to significantly increase Canadian survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest

December 22, 2015

The Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) today announced a $3 million, five-year funding commitment for the Canadian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (CanROC), a multi-province research initiative focused on improving survival rates for cardiac arrest and trauma that occur outside of hospital.

Currently in most Canadian communities, more than half of all cardiac arrest patients do not receive CPR prior to the arrival of paramedics and first responders. Fewer than 10 per cent of people survive a cardiac arrest when it occurs outside of a hospital. CanROC will research ways to make ordinary Canadians more aware and more willing to perform CPR, study ways to improve emergency response, and investigate new resuscitation drugs, tools, and techniques, with an aim to increase the chances of the patient making it to hospital alive.

“Simply put, there is an urgent need to save more lives,” says David Sculthorpe, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “The CanROC initiative will be key in helping the Foundation reach its goal to reduce Canadians’ rate of death from heart disease and stroke by 25 per cent by 2020.”

Out of the estimated 40,000 cardiac arrests that occur in Canada each year, most (85 per cent) strike suddenly and unexpectedly in places outside of hospital - often in homes, offices or public settings. Without rapid and appropriate treatment within minutes, most victims will die before reaching the hospital. By improving bystander CPR rates, the quality of CPR, EMS response times and post-resuscitation care, thousands more Canadian lives could be saved each year.

The three study site leads are Dr. Laurie Morrison at St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto, Dr. Ian Stiell at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa (pictured above), and Dr. Jim Christenson at the University of British Columbia and Providence Health Care Research Institute (Vancouver). The project will expand to have a presence in several provinces.

“Bystander CPR is an easy intervention and the single most important factor in survival,” says Dr. Sheldon Cheskes, CanROC investigator and Medical Director at Sunnybrook Centre for Prehospital Medicine in Toronto. “CanROC will ensure that all Canadians, regardless of their location, will receive excellent care, from bystander response and early defibrillation through to advanced pre-hospital care.”

Another of the initiative’s goals is to expand a registry of sudden cardiac arrests. CanROC will collect data on out of hospital cardiac arrest and trauma, build on resuscitation research in Canada, develop a knowledge-sharing strategy, and use the findings to improve training for paramedics, first responders and hospital-based medical staff. It will also improve the capacity of emergency dispatchers to coach bystanders in performing CPR and using a defibrillator (AED).

“This data will help us pinpoint how systems can best work together before the patient even gets to the hospital so that we can apply it broadly to maximize cardiac arrest survival across Canada. And not just in pockets, but right across the whole country,” says Cheskes.

Cardiac arrest can occur at any age, at any time, without warning. It happens when the heart stops beating effectively and can be triggered by a number of causes. It must be treated very quickly with CPR and defibrillation. There is very little chance of survival beyond 10 minutes without this action, making bystander response very important.

CanROC is a Canadian extension of the HSF- and CIHR-funded Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC), a massive Canada-U.S. resuscitation research program that laid the groundwork for improved cardiac arrest survival rates. Since 2006, the ROC clinical trials in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto have resulted in the doubling of survival rates from cardiac arrests in those centres.

HSF is the only Canadian member of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR), the international body that reviews the science of resuscitation. HSF released new Canadian Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care in October 2015. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s broad-based network of volunteers and local-level connections with front-line EMS personnel and resuscitation training network will provide important support to the initiative.

About the Heart and Stroke Foundation
The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. ‘Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen’. For more information on CPR, including innovative new training programs, see

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

For further information and interviews please contact:

Rhae Ann Bromley
Communications Lead, Resuscitation
Heart and Stroke Foundation, 305

David Wolkowski
Public Affairs Advisor, Office: 613-952-9709 Mobile: 613-854-3234

Principal Investigator contacts:

Vancouver: Elaine Yong
Senior Communications Specialist, Media Relations

Providence Health Care T: 604.682.2344 ext. 66987| M: 604.837.6003

Ottawa: Jennifer Ganton
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Office: 613 798-5555, 73325, Mobile: 613-614-5253

Toronto: Toronto : Geoff Koehler
Senior Public Affairs Adviser, Communications and Public Affairs, St. Michael’s Hospital