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All about cardiac arrest causes of cardiac arrest cardiac arrest symptoms diagnosis of cardiac arrest treatments for cardiac arrest sudden cardiac death causes of sudden cardiac death sudden cardiac death risk factors treatment for sudden cardiac death prevention of sudden cardiac death surviving recurrent cardiac arrest

What is cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is the cessation of normal circulation of the blood due to failure of the ventricles of the heart to contract effectively during systole. The resulting lack of blood supply results in cell death from oxygen starvation. Cerebral hypoxia, or lack of oxygen supply to the brain, causes victims to immediately lose consciousness and stop breathing. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency with absent or inadequate contraction of the left ventricle of the heart that immediately causes

bodywide circulatory failure. The signs and symptoms include loss of consciousness; rapid shallow breathing progressing to apnea (absence of breathing); profoundly low blood pressure (hypotension) with no pulses that can be felt over major arteries; and no heart sounds.

Cardiac arrest is one of the greatest of all medical emergencies. Within several minutes, there is lack of oxygen (tissue hypoxia), leading to multiple organ injury. Unless cardiac arrest is quickly corrected, it is fatal.

During a heart attack, there may be disturbances in the heart rhythm. The most serious form of this is called 'ventricular fibrillation'. This is when the electrical activity of the heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping and quivers or 'fibrillates' instead. This is a cardiac arrest. It can sometimes be corrected by giving a large electric shock through the chest wall, using a device called a defibrillator. This is often successful in restoring a normal heartbeat and afterwards the person can do just as well as if they had not had the cardiac arrest.

If a person has a cardiac arrest, they lose consciousness almost at once. There are also no other signs of life such as breathing. This is the most extreme emergency. Unless someone starts cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within three to four minutes, the person may suffer permanent damage to the brain and other organs.

The most common causes of cardiac arrest are electrical problems in the heart with ventricular fibrillation representing the major type. In ventricular fibrillation, there is loss of coordinated ventricular contractions leading to immediate loss of effective output of blood by the heart, resulting in circulatory arrest.

More information on cardiac arrest

What is cardiac arrest? - A cardiac arrest is the cessation of normal circulation of the blood due to failure of the ventricles of the heart to contract effectively during systole.
What causes cardiac arrest? - The most common underlying reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease.
What are cardiac arrest symptoms? - Cardiac arrest symptoms include loss of consciousness, no breathing, no pulse. Prior to cardiac arrest, symptoms or warning signs include chest pain, weakness, feeling faint.
How is cardiac arrest diagnosed? - The state of cardiac arrest is diagnosed in an unconscious (unresponsive to vigorous stimulation) person who does not have a pulse.
What're the treatments for cardiac arrest? - Emergency medical technicians will quickly confirm a cardiac arrest and defibrillate the victim by sending an electrical shock through the chest.
What is sudden cardiac death? - Sudden cardiac death (also called sudden arrest) is death resulting from an abrupt loss of heart function (cardiac arrest).
What causes sudden cardiac death? - Sudden cardiac death is usually caused by ventricular fibrillation. The risk for SCD is higher for anyone with heart disease.
Who's at risk of sudden cardiac death? - Underlying heart disease is nearly always found in victims of sudden cardiac death. The risk for SCD is higher for anyone with heart disease.
What're the treatments for sudden cardiac death? - When sudden cardiac death occurs, the first treatment is to establish the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. The next priority is to restore normal rhythm to the heart.
Can sudden cardiac death be prevented? - The goal of primary prevention is to decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death in those who have never had an event.
How can survive recurrent cardiac arrest? - Survivors of unexpected cardiac arrest (aborted sudden cardiac death) due to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation are at risk for recurrent arrest.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005