Ghrelin for Neuroprotection in Post-Cardiac Arrest Coma: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Sjoukje Nutma*, Albertus Beishuizen, Walter M. Van Den Bergh, Norbert A. Foudraine, Joost Le Feber, P. Margreet G. Filius, Alexander D. Cornet, Job Van Der Palen, Michel J.A.M. Van Putten, Jeannette Hofmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Importance: Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates have markedly risen in the last decades, but neurological outcome only improved marginally. Despite research on more than 20 neuroprotective strategies involving patients in comas after cardiac arrest, none have demonstrated unequivocal evidence of efficacy; however, treatment with acyl-ghrelin has shown improved functional and histological brain recovery in experimental models of cardiac arrest and was safe in a wide variety of human study populations. Objective: To determine safety and potential efficacy of intravenous acyl-ghrelin to improve neurological outcome in patients in a coma after cardiac arrest. Design, Setting, and Participants: A phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter, randomized clinical trial, Ghrelin Treatment of Comatose Patients After Cardiac Arrest: A Clinical Trial to Promote Cerebral Recovery (GRECO), was conducted between January 18, 2019, and October 17, 2022. Adult patients 18 years or older who were in a comatose state after cardiac arrest were assessed for eligibility; patients were from 3 intensive care units in the Netherlands. Expected death within 48 hours or unfeasibility of treatment initiation within 12 hours were exclusion criteria. Interventions: Patients were randomized to receive intravenous acyl-ghrelin, 600 μg (intervention group), or placebo (control group) within 12 hours after cardiac arrest, continued for 7 days, twice daily, in addition to standard care. Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome was the score on the Cerebral Performance Categories (CPC) scale at 6 months. Safety outcomes included any serious adverse events. Secondary outcomes were mortality and neuron-specific enolase (NSE) levels on days 1 and 3. Results: A total of 783 adult patients in a coma after cardiac arrest were assessed for eligibility, and 160 patients (median [IQR] age, 68 [57-75] years; 120 male [75%]) were enrolled. A total of 81 patients (51%) were assigned to the intervention group, and 79 (49%) were assigned to the control group. The common odds ratio (OR) for any CPC improvement in the intervention group was 1.78 (95% CI, 0.98-3.22; P =.06). This was consistent over all CPC categories. Mean (SD) NSE levels on day 1 after cardiac arrest were significantly lower in the intervention group (34 [6] μg/L vs 56 [13] μg/L; P =.04) and on day 3 (28 [6] μg/L vs 52 [14] μg/L; P =.08). Serious adverse events were comparable in incidence and type between the groups. Mortality was 37% (30 of 81) in the intervention group vs 51% (40 of 79) in the control group (absolute risk reduction, 14%; 95% CI, -2% to 29%; P =.08). Conclusions and Relevance: In patients in a coma after cardiac arrest, intravenous treatment with acyl-ghrelin was safe and potentially effective to improve neurological outcome. Phase 3 trials are needed for conclusive evidence. Trial Registration: EUCTR2018-000005-23-NL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-610
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Neurology
Issue number6
Early online date6 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2024


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