- Quiz: Sudden Cardiac Arrest!
- Visual Guide to Heart Disease Slideshow
- Heart Symptoms Never to Ignore Slideshow
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest FAQs
- Patient Comments: Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Experience
- Patient Comments: Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Symptoms
- Introduction to sudden cardiac arrest
- What are the causes of sudden cardiac arrest?
- What about sudden cardiac arrest in the young?
- What are the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest?
- How is sudden cardiac arrest diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for sudden cardiac arrest?
- Can sudden cardiac arrest be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for sudden cardiac arrest?
What are the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest symptoms and signs are not subtle:
- The heart stops beating and blood is not supplied to the body.
- Almost immediate loss of consciousness occurs, and the affected person will not be able to be aroused.
- The person will fall or slump over.
- No pulse will is felt (palpable).
- There will be no signs of breathing.
How is sudden cardiac arrest diagnosed?
Sudden cardiac arrest is an unexpected death in a person who had no known previous diagnosis of a fatal disease or condition. The person may or may not have heart disease.
What is the treatment for sudden cardiac arrest?
The vast majority of people whose heart stops beating unexpectedly have ventricular fibrillation. The definitive treatment for this is defibrillation using electricity to shock the heart back into a regular rhythm. With technological advances, AEDs are now a routine sight wherever people congregate.
Communities which institute public CPR education, use of AEDs, and rapid activation of 911 emergency medical services have dramatically increased survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, because the brain is so sensitive to the lack of oxygen and blood flow, unless treatment occurs within four to six minutes, there is a high risk of some permanent brain damage.
Should the patient survive to be transported to the hospital, the reason for collapse and sudden death will need to be diagnosed. Regardless, the ABCs of resuscitation will be re-evaluated. Airway, Breathing, and Circulation (heart beat and blood pressure) will be supported, and admission to an intensive care unit is most likely.
Diagnostic tests may include repeated electrocardiograms (EKGs), echocardiogram (ultrasounds of the heart), and cardiac catheterization and electrophysiologic studies, in which the electrical pathways of the heart are mapped.
Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest are often candidates for implantable cardiac defibrillators.