Dr. J. Thannhauser has defended his PhD thesis titled Technical Innovations in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest: On the Road to a Smart Defibrillator on 30th September 2021 at the Radboud university medical center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Could you please tell us what your thesis is about?

Jos explains: “The main topic of my thesis is out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), a sudden stop of the heart’s function, which affects about 15,000 people in The Netherlands on a yearly basis. Survival from OHCA is very poor, as only 1 out of 4 victims survives to hospital discharge.

OHCA is a unique medical emergency, given the important role of bystanders for the chances of survival. For bystanders, the most important actions are:

  1. calling 112;
  2. start cardiopulmonary resuscitation/chest compressions;
  3. let somebody get an automated external defibrillator (AED) to the scene of the arrest.

The latter, the AED, is an example of a technical innovation with a major impact on treatment and survival of OHCA.

In my thesis, I describe recent technical innovations in OHCA-treatment and introduce a potential new innovation: a “smart” defibrillator. With a smart defibrillator, the timing of the shock can be optimized based on algorithms that use the heart’s underlying signal (ECG), to improve the chances of the shock to be successful.

Moreover, in my thesis we performed the first studies in humans that demonstrated that detection of the underlying cause of the arrest is possible with a “smart” defibrillator as well.

All in all, my research may pave the way towards better treatment of cardiac arrest patients in the future.”

What was your most surprising finding?

“The most surprising finding was that with use of a “smart” defibrillator, we were able to detect the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest. Nowadays, defibrillators are relatively simple shock devices that can apply an electrical shock in case of a ventricular arrhythmia.

In my research, we constructed algorithms based on real-time analysis of the patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG) during that arrhythmia (this technique is called ventricular fibrillation waveform analysis). With these automatic algorithms, which we can potentially incorporate in a smart defibrillator, we demonstrated that detection of a myocardial infarction is possible!,” shares Jos.

What’s next for you?

“I’m currently working as a postdoc on the Department of Physiology (Radboudumc) and Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiology (University of Twente). Moreover, I still closely collaborate with the Cardiology department and Dr. Marc Brouwer, intending to apply for grants to continue the OHCA-project. Apart from these plans, I will enjoy a few days of holiday after my PhD defence 😊.

We congratulate dr. Jos Thannhauser on this incredible milestone and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Dr. J. Thannhauser’s research was supervised by promotors Prof. Dr. Niels van Royen and Prof. Dr. Menko-Jan de Boer and co-promotors Dr. Marc Brouwer and Dr. Judith Bonnes (all Raboudumc).

Read a summary of the PhD thesis here.

Read the full PhD thesis here.

Promotie Jos Thannhauser
Doctoral degree Jos Thannhauser