Background: Electroencephalography (EEG) findings following cardiovascular collapse in death are uncertain. We aimed to characterize EEG changes immediately preceding and following cardiac death. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed EEGs of patients who died from cardiac arrest while undergoing standard EEG monitoring in an intensive care unit. Patients with brain death preceding cardiac death were excluded. Three events during fatal cardiovascular failure were investigated: (1) last recorded QRS complex on electrocardiogram (QRS0), (2) cessation of cerebral blood flow (CBF0) estimated as the time that blood pressure and heart rate dropped below set thresholds, and (3) electrocerebral silence on EEG (EEG0). We evaluated EEG spectral power, coherence, and permutation entropy at these time points. Results: Among 19 patients who died while undergoing EEG monitoring, seven (37%) had a comfort-measures-only status and 18 (95%) had a do-not-resuscitate status in place at the time of death. EEG0 occurred at the time of QRS0 in five patients and after QRS0 in two patients (cohort median − 2.0, interquartile range − 8.0 to 0.0), whereas EEG0 was seen at the time of CBF0 in six patients and following CBF0 in 11 patients (cohort median 2.0 min, interquartile range − 1.5 to 6.0). After CBF0, full-spectrum log power (p < 0.001) and coherence (p < 0.001) decreased on EEG, whereas delta (p = 0.007) and theta (p < 0.001) permutation entropy increased. Conclusions: Rarely may patients have transient electrocerebral activity following the last recorded QRS (less than 5 min) and estimated cessation of cerebral blood flow. These results may have implications for discussions around cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.
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