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Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   7 min     



A Cardiopulmonary Arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart that is most often very sudden and has no warning or symptoms. It is an acute heart condition. The word “arrest” means to bring to a halt. During this condition, the heart ceases to beat. It’s also known as sudden cardiac death.

Arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat occurs due to malfunction which disrupts the heart’s pumping action. It means there is no pumping towards the brain, lungs and other vital organs which results in the person collapsing almost instantly. If the person does not receive medical aid, they die within minutes because they have no pulse; hence, there needs an immediate response and treatment.

Is it linked to heart attacks?

Heart attacks increase the risk of cardiac arrests and arrests can occur after an attack or during recovery from a heart attack. Heart attacks don’t usually lead to cardiac arrests, but sudden arrests are generally due to heart attacks and other heart conditions like ventricular fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias etc. 

Is A Cardiac Arrest Painful?

Yes, a cardiopulmonary arrest occurs with a painful chest. It may also bring signs of loss of consciousness, dizziness, and/or no heartbeat or pulse. Some individuals may have a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or vomiting before a sudden cardiac arrest occurs - many individuals have no signs whatsoever and collapse.

Why does Cardiac Arrest happen?

There are several factors due to which cardiopulmonary or cardiac arrest occurs.

1. Ventricular

The most frequent cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. Out of the four chambers of the heart, the two lower chambers are the ventricles. 

In ventricular fibrillation, these chambers tremble out of control, causing the heart’s rhythm to change dramatically. The ventricles start pumping inefficiently due to the amount of blood pumped through the body decreases.  

Even the blood circulation stops totally in some of the case leading to sudden cardiac death.

2. Atrial Fibrillation

The heart has atria, the upper chambers, which can also stop beating efficiently after an arrhythmia.  

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the sinoatrial (SA) node, which is located in the right atrium is not able to send the correct electrical impulses. The sinoatrial node regulates the rate of the blood flow in the heart. But, when the electrical impulse goes into atrial fibrillation, the ventricles can’t pump blood out to the body efficiently. 

3. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) takes place when fatty material (plaque) in the coronary arteries. These arteries help in supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Plaque tapers the arteries due to which blood flow reduces and causes blood clot on the surface of the plaque. This clotting is capable of blocking the oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle, and thus, a heart attack occurs. 

During a heart attack, some heart cells die, which are replaced by scar tissue. This scar tissue may outspread abnormal electrical signals throughout the heart and damaging the heart's electrical system. These changes increase the risk of dangerous ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac arrest. 

CAD seems to be the cause of most cases of sudden cardiac arrest in adults. Many of these adults, however, have no signs or symptoms of CAD before having a sudden cardiac arrest.

4. Physical Stress

Physical stress can also cause the failure of the heart's electrical system. These stresses include:

  • Intense physical activity. The hormone adrenaline released during intense physical activity can trigger sudden cardiac arrest in people who have other heart problems.
  • Deficiency in the blood levels of potassium or magnesium.
  • Major blood loss.
  • Severe lack of oxygen. 

5. Inherited Disorders

Members of the families, who are in the tendency of having arrhythmias, are seen at an increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest. This tendency is hereditary or inherited, which means it's passed from parents to children. 

An arrhythmia is a Long QT Syndrome(LQTS). LQTS is a disorder (occur due to the problems with tiny pores on the surface of the heart) of the heart's electrical activity. This disorder can cause unexpected threatening heart rhythms that would be uncontrollable.

People who inherit structural heart problems are also at a higher risk for experiencing a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest. The sudden cardiac arrest in children seen in many cases is due to these problems.

6. Structural Changes in the Heart

Changes in the heart's standard structure or size may disrupt its electrical system. Examples of such changes include an enlarged or augmented size of the heart due to an increase in blood pressure or advanced heart disease. The structural changes in the heart may also occur due to heart infections. 

Risk Factors of Cardiac Arrest

Certain heart conditions and wellbeing components can build the danger of heart failure. Scroll down to discover more.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease begins in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle itself. When they become blocked, your heart does not receive blood. It may stop working properly.

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital Heart Problem is that type of heart disease that takes place in people who are already born with heart damage. The children who were born with a heretofore serious heart problem are at risk of experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest.

Electrical Impulse Problems

The electrical impulse problems in the heart can increase the probability of the occurrence of cardiac death. These complications in the heart are known as primary heart rhythm abnormalities.

Large Heart

An abnormally large heart incurs an individual with a heart that may not beat properly. This occurrence places him at an increased risk for suffering to a cardiac arrest. The muscle cells of the heart may also be more susceptible to damage. 

Irregular Heart Valves

Irregular Heart Valves or Valve means the circulation of blood through the heart is either overloading the chambers or is not filled to the capacity. This disease can make heart valves leaky or narrower. The chambers may become weakened or enlarged. 

Additional risk factors for cardiopulmonary arrest incorporate:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • low potassium or magnesium
  • family inheritance of any heart disease
  • Earlier heart attacks
  • Ageing over 45 years for men, and 55 for women
  • substance abuse

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

In the earlier phase of cardiac arrest, an individual may experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Fluttering or pounding heart  

Immediate care and treatment are needed if an individual comes up with these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • No pulse
  • Not breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse

Prevention and Treatments of Cardiac Arrest

It is required to seek medical attention immediately during a cardiac event because it causes the heart to stop beating efficiently. Medical treatment will focus on getting the blood flowing back to your body. The doctor will most probably perform a test called an electrocardiogram to identify the type of abnormal rhythm the patient's heart is experiencing.  

To treat the condition, the doctor will probably provide shocks to the patient's heart by using a defibrillator. An electric shock can often regain the normal rhythm of the heart. 

Other tests are also available if someone experiences a cardiopulmonary attack:

  • Chest X-ray is advisable at first to look for other signs of disease in the heart.
  • Blood tests can be asked by the doctor to look for signs of a heart attack. They can also measure potassium and magnesium levels.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) comes under an emergency preventive treatment for sudden cardiac arrest. The other option is Defibrillation. These operations get the standard heart beating again once it has stopped.

If the person survives a cardiopulmonary arrest, the doctor may go for one or more other treatments so that the risk of another attack diminishes.

  • Medication can be given to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.
  • Surgery is helpful in repairing the damaged blood vessels or heart valves. It also removes blockages in the arteries.
  • Dietary changes are a must to lower the cholesterol.
  • Exercises will improve cardiovascular fitness.

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Tags:  Heart diseases,Cardiac arrest

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