what is cardiac arrest?

May 27, 2022

what is cardiac arrest?
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A cardiac arrest is a sudden loss of cardiac function. The heart suddenly stops pumping blood through the body resulting in a lack of supply of oxygen to the brain. This causes unconsciousness and loss of breath.

How is cardiac arrest different from a heart attack?

A heart attack is a blockage of blood flow to the heart due to blood clots. A cardiac arrest is a sudden stop to the heart’s blood-pumping function. The fundamental difference between the both is that during a heart attack, the heart continues to pump despite the blockage. In contrast, during cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood.

Causes of Cardiac Arrest

A heart condition can cause cardiac arrest, or it can occur suddenly. However, there are three leading causes of cardiac arrests, they are:

  • Arrhythmia and ventricular fibrillation: Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It occurs when the electrical signals that control the heartbeat lose coordination. Ventricular fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia where the lower chambers of the heart contract in an irregular, rapid, uncoordinated manner and this results in the heart pumping insufficient blood to the rest of the body. This can often be triggered by a heart attack.
  • Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy): Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that causes it to enlarge, resulting in difficulty pumping blood. This disease is often either hereditary or acquired.
  • Coronary Artery disease: Coronary Artery Disease is the narrowing of the heart’s major blood vessels, generally due to plaque build-up. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure or arrhythmia, leading to cardiac arrest.

Other causes of cardiac arrest include

  • Blood loss
  • >Heart disease
  • Lack of oxygen
  • High potassium
  • Magnesium levels.

Also Read: Risks Of Heart Disease

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

The symptoms of cardiac arrest can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a lack of responsiveness. In some cases of cardiac arrest, the person may not experience any symptoms.

Some symptoms one may experience before a cardiac arrest include

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Source
  • Heart palpitations (rapid heart palpitations or palpitations)
  • Unconsciousness

Who is at risk for cardiac arrest?

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Family history of heart disease or cardiac arrest
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Low levels of potassium or magnesium (for nutrient deficiencies)
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Age over 45 for men, or over 55 for women
  • Male gender

Some people may have a cardiac arrest without any known risk factors. For example, cardiac arrest is more common in older men than women.

Diagnosing Cardiac Arrest

If you experience cardiac arrest, it’s essential to get medical help as soon as possible. Medical treatment will focus on restoring blood flow to your body. Your doctor is likely to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) test to identify the type of abnormal rhythm your heart is experiencing. If you have a heart condition, your doctor will likely use an electric shock to restart your heart. An electric shock can often restore the heart’s rhythm. Other tests may also be used after you experience a cardiac event.

  • The blood test can look for signs of a heart attack.
  • They can also measure potassium and magnesium levels.
  • In addition, a chest X-ray can help rule out other potential health problems in the heart.

Treatment for Cardiac Arrest

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a form of emergency treatment for people who have a cardiac arrest. Defibrillation is another medical procedure used to save lives. These treatments help your heart beat again. If you survive a cardiac arrest, your doctor may put you on a regimen to reduce the risk of another attack. Medication can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Surgery can help to repair damaged blood vessels or heart valves. It can help remove blockages in the arteries. Exercise may help improve cardiovascular fitness. Changing your diet can help lower your cholesterol levels.

Recovery after Cardiac Arrest

Immediate Recovery

Immediate recovery after a cardiac arrest refers to care in a coronary care or intensive care unit. In addition, you may have been put in an induced coma to allow your body to recover from an illness.

Mid-term Recovery

Doctors and cardiologists will want to know what caused the cardiac arrest to figure out how to treat it. To reduce the risk, they can then recommend medication and treatment, such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. They may refer you to cardiac rehabilitation to help rebuild your confidence, fitness, and strength levels. Each program is different but usually involves regular assessments such as checking your pulse and blood pressure, psychological support, health education talks and exercise sessions.

Long term Recovery

Recovery from a cardiac arrest takes time, but your doctor will help you get back on your feet. Discussing your return home with family and doctors is vital so that everyone is aware of what to expect and can prepare accordingly. Some practical matters to consider include driving and returning to work. In addition, your doctor may suggest changing your lifestyle to reduce your risk of another cardiac arrest. This can include:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce drinking
  • Physically active

If you have a cardiac arrest, your brain may not get enough oxygen, resulting in long-term effects. These include:

  • Personality change
  • Memory problem
  • Malaise
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Aphasia / Dysphasia (Language and Difficulty of Language)
  • Myoclonus (involuntary movement)
  • Permanent brain injury Memory without cardiac arrest is normal.

This could be alarming for you and your family members who may have seen it happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes cardiac arrest?

The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm. This can happen when the electrical system in your heart is not working correctly. Your heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat.

2. What are 3 causes of cardiac arrest?

Heart conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest

  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Heart attack.
  • Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy).

3. Is cardiac arrest painful?

Yes, about half of patients who have a cardiac arrest experience symptoms like intermittent chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, palpitations, or ongoing flu-like symptoms such as nausea and abdominal and back pain.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Department of Cardiology

Department of Cardiology

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