Cardiac arrest is a severe heart condition. During cardiac arrest, your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body. When the heart stops pumping blood, the brain is starved of oxygen. This result in unconsciousness and the person stops breathing.
Our heartbeat is controlled by electrical impulses. Arrhythmia is the change of these electrical impulses, which occurs when the heartbeat becomes irregular. Few arrhythmias are slow, and others are rapid. When the rhythm of the heart stops, it results in cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrest is a critical health issue. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you're experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest. It is life-threatening. Timely and immediate response can save your life.
Cause of Cardiac Arrest
Many factors can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Two of the most common cardiac arrest are ventricular and atrial fibrillation.
Ventricular Fibrillation: This is the most common cause of cardiac arrest. The heart has four chambers. There are two lower chambers called the ventricles. When ventricular fibrillation occurs, these chambers quiver out of control, causing the heart's rhythm to change dramatically. This results in inefficient pumping by the ventricles. Hence, it severely decreases the amount of blood pumped through the body. In most cases, it could lead to sudden death because the blood circulation completely stops.
Atrial Fibrillation: There are two upper chambers called the atria. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the sinoatrial (SA) node doesn't send out the correct electrical impulses. The SA node, located in the right atrium functions as to how quickly the heart pumps blood. The ventricles can't pump blood out to the body efficiently when the electrical impulse goes into atrial fibrillation.
The risk for Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest can be caused by certain heart conditions and health factors that increase your risk of cardiac arrest.
Coronary Heart Disease: The coronary arteries supply the heart muscle itself. The heart does not receive blood when they become blocked, and thus it may stop working correctly.
Large Heart: A large heart is also placed at high risk for cardiac arrest because it may not beat correctly, and muscles are more prone to damage.
Irregular Heart Valves: Valve disease leads to making heart valves leaky or narrower. The heart chamber become weak or enlarged when the blood circulating through the heart either overloads the chambers with blood or does not fill them.
Congenital Heart Disease: If you are born with heart damage or a severe heart problem. It is called a congenital heart problem and cause cardiac arrest.
Electrical Impulse Problems: When you face problems with your heart's electrical system, this increases your risk of sudden cardiac death.
Other risk factors for cardiac arrest include:
high blood pressure
family history of heart disease
history of a previous heart attack
aging over 45 for men and over 55 for women
low potassium or magnesium
Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest
Following are the symptoms of cardiac arrest, and you should visit the doctor if you:
are short of breath
feel fatigued or weak
experience heart palpitations
Prompt medical emergency care is needed if you or someone you are with experiences these symptoms:
not breathing or difficulty breathing
loss of consciousness
However, cardiac arrest may not have symptoms before it occurs. If you do have persistent symptoms that persist, seek immediate medical care.
Diagnosing Cardiac Arrest
ECG: During cardiac arrest, seek medical treatment immediately to focus on getting the blood flowing back to your body. The doctor will perform a test called an electrocardiogram to identify the type of abnormal rhythm your heart is experiencing. The ECG will reveal disturbances in heart rhythm or detect unusual electrical patterns, such as a prolonged QT interval, that increase your risk of sudden death.
Blood tests: The doctor may order blood tests to look for signs of a heart attack. They can also measure potassium, magnesium, hormones, and other chemicals that can affect your heart's ability to function.
Chest X-ray and Echocardiogram is another imaging test that can also be used to look for other signs of disease in the heart.
Treating Cardiac Arrest
CPR: To treat Cardiac arrest, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed. This helps in maintaining a flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body's vital organs. It involves pushing hard and fast on the person's chest — at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions a minute, allowing the chest to rise between compressions fully.
Defibrillation: For advanced care for ventricular fibrillation, an electrical shock is delivered through the chest wall to the heart. This procedure momentarily stops the heart and the chaotic rhythm. This often allows the normal heart rhythm to resume once it has stopped.
Medication can also be used to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Surgery such as Coronary angiography and coronary bypass surgery can also repair damaged blood vessels or heart valves. It helps in removing blockages in the arteries.
Corrective heart surgery can also be performed to correct the abnormality that might improve your heart rate and blood flow, reducing your risk of fatal arrhythmias.