Cardiac arrest is a very serious heart condition that brings your breathing to a halt .This causes the heart to cease beating. It is also called sudden cardiac death.
The heartbeat of a human being is controlled by electrical impulses. The heartbeat is normally regular but when the impulses change pattern, it becomes irregular.
This is termed as an arrhythmia. Sometimes the arrhythmias become slow and even stop. Cardiac arrest is when this rhythm of the heart stops. Cardiac arrest is an extremely severe health issue.
The World Health Organization reports that at least 17.9 million individuals died from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in 2016 which signifies 31% of all deaths in the world. About 85% of these deaths occur because of cardiac arrest or heart attack and stroke.
The signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest are often instantaneous and severe. They include:
- No pulse
- Sudden collapse
- No breathing
- Loss of consciousness
At times, other symptoms or signs may occur before the actual arrest. These might include:
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
However, sudden cardiac arrest normally occurs without warning
The main cause of sudden cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm. This is when the electrical activity or impulses of the heart become chaotic and makes it unable to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Conditions that can trigger cardiac arrest include:
- Arrhythmias: It is a problem with the heart’s electrical system.
- Cardiomyopathy: When you have this heart disease, the muscles of your heart become thick or enlarged to make it weakened.
- Coronary artery disease: It is the most common cause of both heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest.
- Long QT Syndrome and Brugada Syndrome: They are disorders of the electrical system of the heart that can cause abnormal heart rhythms.
- Marfan syndrome: This inherited disorder can cause parts of the heart to stretch and weaken.
- Heart birth defects: Even if a person had surgery to correct a defect, one is at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Other heart disease that may cause cardiac arrest include valvular heart disease, electrical problems in the heart, and heart attack.
Risk factors of cardiac arrest include:
- A family history of coronary artery disease
- A sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
Other secondary factors that may lead to cardiac arrest include:
- Being a male
- A previous heart attack
- Age – the risk increases with age
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Chronic kidney disease
- Nutritional imbalance such as low magnesium or potassium levels
- Using illegal drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines
- A previous episode of cardiac arrest or a family history of cardiac arrest
The doctor will likely to ask about symptoms and family history before proceeding to undertake other tests. The first test that the doctor will conduct is a 12-point screening test.
The 12-point screening test looks at both family and personal history to assess aspects of previous attacks, previous heart diseases, and general information about family history.
The doctor will also conduct a physical exam and may use electrocardiogram (ECG) that help identify heart conditions that can put people at risk.
The doctor may undertake blood tests to substantiate levels of magnesium, potassium, hormones, and other chemicals. Other tests include chest X-ray, echocardiogram, nuclear scan, and angiogram.
Sudden cardiac arrest needs immediate action for survival.
First, immediate CPR is critical for treating sudden cardiac arrest. Second, the doctor may use defibrillation which provides advanced care for ventricular fibrillation to manage it and prevent sudden cardiac arrest from occurring.
Once you arrive at the emergency room, the medical staff will work to stabilize your condition and treat a potential heart attack, electrolyte imbalances, or heart failure.
Long-term treatment comes after the patient recovers or the doctor stabilizes you. The doctor will discuss with you preventive options with you to minimize your risk of another cardiac arrest. Treatments may include:
- Drugs: Doctors will likely use drugs such as anti-arrhythmic drugs and beta blockers.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): This is a battery-powered unit that is put into your body near the left collarbone to monitor heart rhythm.
- Coronary angioplasty: It unblocks coronary arteries and allow smooth blood flow to the heart and reduce the risk of serious arrhythmia.
- Other treatment options include coronary bypass surgery, radiofrequency catheter ablation, and corrective heart surgery.
The best way to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest is through getting regular checkups, living a heart-healthy lifestyle, and being screened for heart disease.
For more information on diagnosis and/or treatment, speak to a doctor, or get access to a hospital near you through the Uzima Health App.