Cardiac Arrest: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

cardiac arrest

Do you know that Cardiac Arrest is a serious heart condition in which your heart can stop or bring to a halt?

During a cardiac arrest, your heart ceases to beat and it is also termed sudden cardiac death.

It is important to note that electrical impulses control your heartbeat.

When these impulses change their pattern, your heartbeat becomes irregular.

This is known as arrhythmia.

Moreover, some arrhythmias are slow, while others are rapid. When a cardiac arrest occurs, the rhythm of your heart stops.

Cardiac Arrest is an extremely serious medical issue and according to the Institute of Medicine, every year more than half a million individuals experience cardiac arrest in the United States.

Now imagine the number worldwide.

Furthermore, this condition can cause death or disability, so if you or someone experiences its symptoms, seek emergency assistance or emergency treatment.

It can be fatal, thus, immediate response and treatment can save a life.

Keep on reading.

Causes of Cardiac Arrest

There are a number of factors that can cause a sudden cardiac arrest.

Two of the most common are ventricular and atrial fibrillation.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Ventricular Fibrillation

Your heart consists of four-chamber, the two lower chambers are the ventricles.

In ventricular fibrillation, these chambers quiver out of control and this causes changes in the rhythm of your heath.

Moreover, during this condition, the ventricles begin to pump inefficiently which can severely decrease the amount of blood that your heat pumps.

In some cases, however, the circulation of the blood stops completely and may lead to sudden cardiac death.

It is important to note that one of the most frequent causes of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation.

cardiac arrest 1Atrial Fibrillation

Your heart can also stop beating efficiently after an arrhythmia in the upper 2 chambers of your heart.

These two chambers are called atria.

Atrial fibrillation begins when the sinoatrial SA node does not send out the correct electrical impulses.

Your SA node is located in the right atrium and it regulates how quickly your heart pumps blood.

When the electrical impulse goes into atrial fibrillation, the ventricles are unable to pump blood out to the body efficiently.

Who is at Risk for Cardiac Arrest?

Some of the heart conditions and health factors can increase your risk of having a cardiac arrest.

These heart conditions are:

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Artery Disease begins in the coronary arteries and these arteries are responsible to supply the heart muscle itself.

When they become blocked, your heart will not receive blood and it may also stop working properly.

cardiac arrest 3Large Heart

Having an abnormally large heart can place you at an increased risk for cardiac arrest.

Moreover, a large heart cannot beat correctly and the muscle may also be more prone to damage.

Irregular Heart Valves

Valve diseases can make your heart valves leaky or narrower.

This means that blood circulating through your heart either overloads the chambers with blood or does not fill them to capacity.

These chambers may become weak or enlarged.

Other Heart Diseases leading to Cardiac Arrest

Some of the other heart diseases that can lead to a cardiac arrest are as follows:

Congenital Heart Disease

In some cases, individuals are born with heart damage.

This is a Congenital Heart problem. Sudden cardiac arrest may occur in children who are born with a serious heart problem.

Electrical Impulse Problems

Problems with the heart’s electrical system of your heart can increase your chances of a sudden cardiac arrest that can be life threatening.

These disorders are known as Primary Heart Rhythm Abnormalities.

Some of the other risk factors for cardiac arrest are:

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

One of the important things you should know about the signs and symptoms of a cardiac arrest is that early symptoms are often the warning signs.

Getting treatment before your heart stops can save your life.

Moreover, if you are in cardiac arrest, you may:

Become dizzy, be short of breath, feel fatigued or weak, vomit, and experience heart palpitations.

cardiac arrest 2On the other hand, you will need immediate care if you experience the following symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • no breath or difficult breathing
  • collapse
  • loss of consciousness
  • no pulse

It is important to note that a cardiac arrest may not have any symptoms before it occurs.

However, if you do have symptoms that persist, then you should seek immediate medical care.

Diagnosing Cardiac Arrest

If you survive a cardiac arrest, then your doctor will make a diagnosis to learn about the causes of it.

This can help to prevent future episodes. The tests your doctor will recommend are:

Electrocardiogram, ECG: During an ECG, with the help of sensors o electrodes can detect the electrical activity of your heart.

Your doctor will attach them to your chest and in some cases to your limbs.

diagnosisAn ECG can help to reveal disturbances in the heart rhythm or detect abnormal electrical patterns.

These may include prolonged QT intervals, which increases your risk of sudden death.

Blood Tests: Doctors may take a sample of blood to check the levels of potassium, magnesium, hormones, and other chemicals that can affect the ability of your heart to function.

Other blood tests can help to detect a recent injury and heart attack.

Image Testings

Some of the image tests include:

Chest X-ray: This will allow your doctor to check the size and shape of your heart and its blood vessels.

Moreover, it might also show whether you have heart failure or not.

Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to produce an image of your heart and can also help identify whether an area of your heart is damaged by a heart attack.

It can also help to detect if you have problems with the valves of your heart or not.

Some of the other tests are a nuclear scan, an MRI, a CT scan, and cardiac catheterization.

With the help of these tests, your doctor can determine the pumping capacity of your heart by measuring the ejection fraction.

It is one of the most important predictors of your risk of a sudden cardiac arrest and refers to the percentage of blood that your heart pumps out of a filled ventricle.

A normal ejection fraction is 50% to 70% and if it is less than 40%, there is an increase in your risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Nuclear Scan: A nuclear scan is carried out with a stress test that helps to identify blood flow problems in your heart.

Tiny amounts of radioactive material like thallium are injected into your bloodstream and with the help of special cameras, your doctor can detect the problems.

Coronary Catheterization: During this procedure, your doctor will inject a liquid dye into the arteries through a long, thin tube or catheter, often through your arm, to the arteries in your heart.

As the dye fills your heart, the arteries become visible on X-ray and videotape, revealing areas of blockage.

Treatment Options

A sudden cardiac arrest requires immediate action for survival. This includes:

CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: Immediate CPR is important for treating a cardiac arrest, as it helps to maintain a flow of oxygen-rich blood to the vital organs of your body.

Moreover, it can provide a vital link until more advanced emergency care is available.

If you or someone close to you does not know CRP, and someone collapses, call 911 or 988 or emergency medical care.

If a person is not breathing normally, then begin pushing hard and fast on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compression a minute, allowing a chest to fully rise.

Do this until an automated external, defibrillator or AED  become available or emergency personnel arrives.

CPRDefibrillation: In the case of advanced care for ventricular fibrillation, you will need to deliver an electrical shock through the chest wall to the heart.

This procedure momentarily stops the heart and the chaotic rhythm and often allows the normal heart rhythm to resume.

At the Emergency Room: Once you arrive in the emergency room, the medical staff will work to stabilize your condition and treat the possible heart attack, heart failure, or electrolyte imbalance.

Moreover, your doctor may give to medications to stabilize the rhythm of your heart.

Long Term Treatment

After recovering from the initial phases, your doctor will discuss with you or your family what other tests can help determine the causes of cardiac arrest.

Moreover, they will also discuss preventive treatment options to reduce your risk of another cardiac arrest.

These treatments may include:

Medications: Your doctor will prescribe anti-arrhythmic drugs for emergency or long-term treatment of arrhythmias or potential complications.

Furthermore, beta-blockers can help to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator, ICD: After your condition stabilizes, your doctor will likely recommend an ICD.

It is a battery-powered unit that your doctor will put in your body neat your left collarbone. One or more electrode-tipped wires run through your veins to your heart.

ICD constantly monitors your heart rhythm and if it detects any issue, it paces your heart as a pacemaker.

Coronary Angioplasty: With the help of this procedure, your doctor will open the blocked coronary arteries, letting blood flow more freely to your heart.

This can help reduce your risk of serious arrhythmia.

Coronary Bypass Surgery: Also called Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting, it involves sewing veins or arteries at a site beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery.

It helps to restore blood flow to your heart.

Radiofrequency catheter ablation and corrective heart surgery are some of the other treatment options for cardiac arrest.

Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of your heart.

If you do not get treatment, the part of your heart can die and you cannot go on without treatment.

Moreover, symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. However, more often, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours.

differenceOn the other hand, a sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without a warning sign.

It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in that heart that causes an irregular heartbeat.

With this disruption, your heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs.

This can cause loss of consciousness and no pulse.

Long-Term Outlook

Cardiac arrest can be fatal, however, immediate or prompt treatment can increase your odds of survival. Treatment is effective when you receive it within a few months of the arrest.

If you have already experienced a cardiac arrest, it is important to understand the case. Your long-term outlook depends on the causes. Thus, talking to your doctor about the treatment can help to protect your heart and even prevent the cardiac arrest from happening again.

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