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An adult person’s heart beats around 60 to 80 times a minute and over 3 billion times in a lifetime. Oxygenated blood from the lungs is pumped by the heart to all parts of the body. This process is caused by an electric pulse, which enables the heart to beat. There may be changes in the pattern of the heartbeats sometimes, which lead to heart disorders, but when the heart stops beating, then it is called a cardiac arrest. When this happens, the flow of oxygenated blood to all parts of the body stops. When blood flow to the brain decreases, it causes unconsciousness. If the heart stops beating for a long time, it causes brain damage. A person can survive approximately up to 10 minutes, after that his or her chances of survival are very low.

What are the signs of Cardiac Arrest?

Before it happens:

  • Feel discomfort in the chest region,
  • Becomes too weak to do anything,
  • Slight shortness of breath and,
  • Fluctuation in heart beat’s rhythm.

When it happens:

  • Loss of consciousness, as the oxygenated blood stops flowing to the brain,
  • No pulse,
  • A person will suddenly collapse and
  • When it occurs, the person stops breathing.

Causes of cardiac arrest-

Cardiac arrest may result from many cardiac and non-cardiac causes like,

Cardiac cause-

Coronary artery disease:

This is the most common cause in most of the cases. Less chance in people below the age of 40. This disease causes less amount of blood to flow to the heart because of the build-up of plaque in the arteries of the heart. This causes lack of oxygen in the heart’s muscle cells. Eventually, leading to cardiac arrest.

Structural heart disease:

This accounts for around 10 percent of cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Some examples of this include cardiomyopathy, cardiac rhythm disturbance, congestive heart failure, etc.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is considered to be the main reason for cardiac arrest in adults. This is commonly because of the result of longstanding high blood pressure. High blood pressure is caused by damages to the walls of the heart’s pumping chamber.

Inherited arrhythmia syndrome:

 This accounts for approximately 5 to 10 percent of cardiac arrest. It is caused by genetic disorders that lead to variation in heart rhythm. This mutation affects the specialized protein which is called the ion channels, which conducts electrically charged particles across the cell membrane.

Non – cardiac causes-

This accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of sudden cardiac arrest cases. Trauma: This is physical injury caused due to external forces, mainly accidents, falls, damage caused by a weapon, etc.

Excessive bleeding: This is simply known as blood loss, which is caused due to the damage in the blood vessels. Bleeding can be both internal or external or through natural openings like the mouth, ears, etc. A huge amount of blood loss can cause cardiac arrest.

Hypovolemic shock: This is due to the lack of blood or fluid inside the human body, disabling the heart from pumping blood to all parts of the body. This can also be caused because of dehydration due to blood loss and other reasons.

Other non-cardiac causes are drug overdose, drowning and pulmonary embolism.

Immediate steps to take when someone undergoes cardiac arrest

Call the local emergency helpline:

When you find out that someone is having a heart attack, then immediately call the local emergency number for an ambulance. If the ambulance is not available, then find a vehicle and drive the person to the hospital. If the patient is alone and out of options and has to drive on its own, then it shouldn’t be done as driving might make it worse than it already would be.

Take Aspirin:

After calling the emergency number, take aspirin as it avoids blood from clotting and thereby reduces heart damage. In case a person is allergic to it, then he or she should avoid consuming Aspirin as it might worsen the condition.

Take prescribed nitro glycerine:

If the doctor has already prescribed nitro glycerine to you, then take it in case of a heart attack. Take it only after you have called the emergency help line.

Begin CPR if the person is unconscious:

Start giving CPR if the person’s pulse can’t be felt and he or she isn’t breathing. After calling the emergency number, push hard on the centre of the chest at 100 to 120 compression per minute. It helps the blood to flow to all the parts of the body.

AED (Automated External Defibrillator):

If you have an AED device, use it following its guide. It is a device which restarts the heart rhythm with the application of electricity.

Diagnosis of Cardiac Arrest-

Electrocardiogram (ECG):

This is a painless process to check the cause of cardiac arrest or its symptoms. It detects the abnormal electrical pattern and disturbance in one’s heart rhythm.

In this process, doctors will attach 12 to 15 electrodes to a person’s chest and limbs. Before that, they will apply gel to these regions and shave some regions to stick electrodes properly. These electrodes are connected to the ECG machine, and the output will appear on a graph.

Blood tests:

Blood samples will be taken to test the chemical compositions of your body like potassium, magnesium, etc. Other tests via blood samples can tell about recent heart attacks and heart injury.

Imaging tests:

Chest X-ray:Doctors will take an X-ray of the chest to see the size and shape of the heart and blood vessels. It is also used to determine whether a person has heart failure or not.

Echo-cardiogram: This test includes the use of sound waves to get an image of your heart. This is helpful in determining which part of your heart is damaged and the condition of blood vessels. It determines the pumping capacity of the heart by predicting ejection fraction. Ejection fraction is nothing but the amount of blood pumped out of the ventricle with each heartbeat. Normal ejection fraction for a person is 50 to 70 percent, and less than 40 percent may cause cardiac arrest.

Nuclear scan: This test is used to check problems relating to blood flow to your heart. During the process, a little amount of radioactive material like thallium is injected to your bloodstream. A special type of camera is used to track the radioactive material as it flows in the bloodstream.

Coronary catheterization: This test is for checking blockage in arteries. During the process, a liquid dye is injected through a narrow tube into your arteries. When this liquid fills your artery, it will become visible on the X-ray. Through X-ray, doctors can check for blockage in the artery. If there is a blockage, the doctor may treat it by keeping it open with the help of a stent.


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