Drawing the curtains for family members of cardiac arrest victims as doctors and nurses perform an emergency procedure hardly yields any benefit, says new research.
When a hospital patient's heart stops, very few hospitals allow family members to stay and watch the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other attempts to save the patient's life that the medical team undertakes.
The new study shows that patients do just as well after a cardiac arrest at those hospitals compared with ones that do not allow families to stay during resuscitation.
"There are no compelling reasons to say we should not allow families to be present... and lots of reasons to say we should," said Colin Cooke from the University of Michigan's medical school.
The findings are based on an analysis of 41,568 patients who went through resuscitation efforts at 252 hospitals.
In all, 13,470 of those patients were treated at 80 hospitals with policies allowing for family presence during resuscitation, or FPDR.
Across all patients, more than 57 percent had their heart restarted by resuscitation. Only 17.6 percent of all patients survived to go home from the hospital.
They found no significant differences between the two groups in the odds that patients' hearts restarted, patients' odds of leaving the hospital alive, or their odds of leaving the hospital with little lingering effect of their cardiac arrest on their brains.
Many hospitals held back on allowing family presence out of a concern that loved ones could distract medical team members, get in their way, or even be more likely to sue afterward if the patient dies or suffers serious brain damage.
"Our study tried to look at this in as comprehensive a way as we could, and we cannot see anything in these findings that says these policies are harmful," Cooke noted.
The study appeared in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.