Cardiac Arrest

Your heart pumps blood to your body continuously, when this pumping action is stopped by the heart a cardiac arrest occurs. People with cardiac arrest collapses suddenly, cannot breathe normally, and are unresponsive. By this, it is clear that a cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. Cardiac arrest is reported as more than 10 million cases annually in India. Age group of 60 and above is more affected with cardiac arrests.

The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is usually an abnormality in the heart’s rhythm. These are called ventricular fibrillations; many heart conditions can lead to sudden cardiac arrest:

  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Electrical problems in the heart
  • Cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart)

The patient with sudden cardiac arrest may have no pulse breathing and may lose consciousness. Call your doctor immediately if there are symptoms such as blackouts, chest pain, weakness, palpitations or vomiting.

The most common risk factors for cardiac arrest are:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • High blood cholesterol
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption

Difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest

Heart Attack Cardiac Arrest
It is also called as myocardial infarction, which is a sudden interruption to the blood flow to the heart muscle. It causes chest pain and permanent damage to the heart. But the heart still pumps blood to the body parts, and the person can be still breathing and conscious. If you had a heart attack earlier, then you are at an increased risk of having a cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops pumping the blood to the body. The person immediately collapses and loses his/her consciousness, the normal breathing process stops, if not treated with CPR within minutes. This can lead to death.

The diagnostic tests that your doctor may recommend include:

  • Electrocardiogram - helps to detect the electrical activity of your heart, and reveals any abnormalities in the rhythm.
  • Blood tests - help to check the potassium, magnesium levels and chemical and hormones that affect your heart’s function.
  • Imaging tests
  • Chest X-ray - reveals the size and shape of the heart and blood vessels and also indicates if you have heart failure.
  • Echocardiogram - it reveals the damaged area of the heart and the valvular abnormalities.
  • Nuclear scan : helps to identify the blood flow problems to the heart.

There are several options for heart failure treatment

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

This is the best cardiac arrest treatment you can provide in emergency. When you see anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of cardiac arrest, performing a CPR would save the life:

  • Check the victim’s response, if the patient is not breathing normally; call the emergency ambulance and come back to the patient.
  • If the patient is not breathing normally, coughing or moving, you must start with compressing the chest. This is performed by pushing down near the center of the chest 2-2.4 inches for 30 times. You must ensure to pump hard and fast at the rate of 100-120/minute, it must be faster than once per second.
  • You must tilt the patient’s head by lifting the chin, and pinch the nose by covering the mouth with yours and blow the air until the patient’s chest is raised. Give two breaths, each breath must be for 1 second.


During emergency situations such as ventricular fibrillation, defibrillation, which is a type of procedure that allows the heart rhythm to resume back, is used. Defibrillators are used to recognize ventricular fibrillation and sends shock appropriately.


Doctors prescribe various anti-arrhythmic drugs for long-term therapy. Beta blockers are the class of drugs most commonly used in the treatment of sudden cardiac shock. Other drugs may include calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

This treatment option helps in constant monitoring of your heart rhythm; it detects the rhythm if it is slow and paces up just like a heart’s pacemaker does. In case it detects dangerous heart rhythms, then it sends out high-frequency energy shocks to cope up to the normal heart rhythm.

Coronary angioplasty

This is a procedure that opens the blocks in your coronary arteries and helps for a good blood flow to the heart that reduces your risk of arrhythmias.


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