Cardiac arrest is a serious medical condition, heart problem, and the word arrest suggests a sudden stop or halt.
In a cardiac arrest, your heartbeat stops and is also termed sudden cardiac death.
Electrical impulses control the heartbeat and these impulses change their pattern, your heartbeat can become irregular.
Medically it is termed Arrhythmia. Some of these are slow, while others are rapid.
Moreover, it is important to note that cardiac arrest occurs when the rhythm of your heart stops.
Cardiac arrest is an extremely serious condition and according to the Institute of Medicine, every year more than half s million people experience cardiac arrest in the United States.
This condition can cause disability or even death.
Thus, if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest then you should immediately seek medical assistance or emergency health assistance.
It can be life-threatening, thus immediate response and treatment can save your life.
Keep on reading to learn more about signs and symptoms, causes, treatment, and more about cardiac arrest.
Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest
Early signs and symptoms are mostly the warning signs of a cardiac arrest.
Thus, getting treatment before your heart stops can save your life.
During a cardiac arrest, you may feel dizzy, shortness of breath. fatigued or weak, vomiting, and experience heart palpitations.
Moreover, you will need emergency care if you experience chest pain. no pulse, no breathing, loss of consciousness, and collapse.
However, not all individuals experience symptoms, and if these persist, seek immediate medical care.
Causes of a Cardiac Arrest
One of the usual causes of cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia.
This often happens when your heart’s electrical system is not working properly.
The electrical system of your heart controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat.
If something is not working properly, then your heart can beat too fast, too slowly, or irregularly.
Often these arrhythmias are brief and harmless, however, some types can lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.
One of the most common heart rhythms at the time of cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia in the lower chamber of your heart or ventricles.
Moreover, rapid, erratic electrical impulses cause your ventricle to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood or ventricle fibrillation.
Heart Conditions that can lead to Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to individuals if they have a certain heart-related condition.
However, a life-threatening arrhythmia usually develops with pre-existing and possibly undiagnosed heart disease.
These risk factors or conditions are:
- Coronary artery disease
- heart Attack
- Cardiomyopathy or enlarged heart
- Valvular Heart DIsease
- Congenital Heart Disease
- Electrical Problems in your heart.
Let’s discuss these as follows:
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease or CAD happens when there is a buildup of plaque in your coronary arteries.
These arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygenated blood to your heart.
Your arteries are smooth and elastic, however, when plaque buildups on the inner walls, it can make them stiff and narrow.
This slows down the blood flow to your heart muscle and does not get the oxygen that it needs.
In some cases, this plaque can also break off, leading to a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.
There are different causes of coronary artery disease and can start with an injury or damage to the inner layer of the artery.
This damage can happen in your early childhood when the plaque starts to collect along your blood vessel.
Thus, it increases your risk of blood clots and heart attacks.
Common symptoms are angina or chest pain.
Aching, burning, weakness, or dizziness, nausea, sweating or fatigue are among other symptoms.
If a heart attack occurs, then it is often due to severe coronary artery disease.
Moreover, it can trigger ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest.
A heart attack happens when you have coronary artery disease and the blood cannot flow as it should.
Fat, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells build up in your arteries making them narrow in the form of plaques.
When the plaque is hard the outer shell cracks and ruptures.
Your platelets come to the area and form a clot, however, if a blood clot blocks your artery your heart muscle does not get the oxygen it needs.
Thus, causing permanent damage.
The warning signs of a heart attack are shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, discomfort in the neck, shoulder, or neck.
Cardiomyopathy or Enlarged Heart
Cardiomyopathy or an enlarded heart occurs when the walls of your heart stretch and enlarge or thicken.
This causes your heart muscle to become abnormal and often leads to arrhythmias.
The causes of this condition are often unknown, however, it can result due to other conditions.
These are long-term high blood pressure, damage to the heart tissues, rapid heart rate, or heart valve problems.
Moreover, inflammation of the heart, metabolic disorders, lack of essential nutrients, and iron build-up in your heart muscle can cause it.
The symptoms of cardiomyopathy are breathlessness, swelling in different parts of your body, coughing, fatigue, rapid heartbeats, etc.
Valvular Heart Disease
Leaking or narrowing of the valves of your heart can lead to stretching or thickening of the heart muscle.
When the heart chambers increase in size or weaken because of stress by a tight or leaking valve, then it can increase your chances of developing arrhythmia.
There are a number of causes of valvular heart diseases like congenital conditions, infections, degenerative conditions, and the ones that are linked to heart diseases.
Symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, rapid weight gain, irregular heartbeat, etc.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease or heart disease present at birth can lead to cardiac arrest in children or adolescents.
However, those who have corrective surgery are still at a higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Many doctors and researchers are unable to know the causes of congenital heart diseases, however, some of these are inherited.
This disease can affect the structure of the heart, including arteries, valves, chambers, and the wall of tissue or septum.
The symptoms of congenital heart disease are abnormal heart rhythms, cyanosis, shortness of breath, tiring quickly, and edema.
Electrical Problems in Heart
Electrical problems in your heart occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats do not work properly.
This causes your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.
Doctors classify heart arrhythmia not only by where they originate but also on the speed of heart rate they cause:
- Tachycardia: This refers to a fast heartbeat — a resting heart rate greater than 100 beats a minute.
- Bradycardia: This refers to a slow heartbeat — a resting heart rate less than 60 beats a minute.
Not all of these mean you have heart disease.
The symptoms include a fluttering in your chest, tachycardia, bradycardia, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Moreover, anxiety, fatigue, lightheadedness or dizziness, sweating, and fainting or syncope are among other signs and symptoms.
Diagnosis of a Cardiac Arrest
During a cardiac arrest that causes your heart to stop immediately, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.
Medical treatment aims to get your blood flow back to your body.
Your doctor will perform a test, electrocardiogram to identify the type of abnormal heart rhythm you are experiencing.
Moreover, they will use a defibrillator to shock your heart.
An electric shock can often return your heart to a normal rhythm.
During an ECG, your doctor will place sensors or electrodes that can detect the electrical activity of your heart.
These electrodes are attached to your chest and sometimes to your limbs.
An ECG can reveal disturbances in your heart rhythm or detect abnormal electrical patterns like a prolongest QT interval.
This may increase your risk of sudden death.
Let’s discuss other tests in detail
Blood Tests and Imaging Tests
Blood tests can help reveal the levels of potassium, magnesium, hormones, and other chemicals that can affect your heart’s ability to function properly.
Other blood tests can help reveal heart injury and heart attacks.
Image tests include:
Chest X-ray: This X-ray will allow your doctor to check the size and shape of your heart and its blood vessels.
It might also show you have heart failure.
Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to produce an image of your heart.
It can also help identify whether an area of your heart is damaged by a heart attack or is pumping hard enough or whether you have issues with the heart valves.
Moreover, these tests include nuclear scan, MRI, CT scan, and cardiac catheterization.
Moreover, these can help determine your heart’s pumping capacity or Ejection Fraction.
The normal ejection fraction is 50 to 70% while the one less than 40% increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Coronary Catheterization: Your doctor will inject a liquid dye into the arteries through a long thin tube revealing areas of blockage.
They may treat blockage with angioplasty and inserting a stent to hold the artery open.
A sudden cardiac arrest needs immediate action so that your life can be saved.
These treatment options are as follows:
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, CPR
Immediate CPR is important for treating cardiac arrest by maintaining the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your whole body.
It provides a vital link until more advanced emergency medical care is available.
However, if you do not have CPR, then call 911 or 988.
Moreover, if the person is not breathing normally, they begin pushing hard and fast on the person’s chest at the rate of 100 to 200 compressions per minute.
Do this until you have an automated external defibrillator AED.
Emergency Room Treatment
Once an individual arrives in the emergency room, the medical staff will stabilize your condition and treat the possible heart attack, heart failure, or electrolyte imbalances.
Long Term Treatment
After you recover, your doctor will take some tests that can help determine the cause of a cardiac arrest.
They will recommend preventive measures to reduce your risk of another cardiac arrest.
Medications: Anti-arrhythmic drugs for emergency or long-term treatment.
Other possible medications are angiotensin-converting enzyme ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers.
Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator, ICD: Your doctor will recommend ICD after you stabilize.
They will place it near your collarbone and one or more electrode-tipped wires run through your veins to the heart.
Coronary Angioplasty: This helps to open the blocked arteries letting the blood flow easily.
Your doctor will pass along and thin tube through an artery with a balloon tip that briefly inflates to open the blocked artery.
Also, they will add a stent to open it restoring the blood flow.
The surgical options are:
Coronary Bypass Surgery: Also coronary artery bypass grafting, involves sewing veins or arteries in a place at a site beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery.
Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation: This procedure helps to unblock a single abnormal electrical pathway.
One or more catheters are threaded through your blood vessels.
They are positioned along the electrical pathways your doctor will identify causing the arrhythmia.
Electrodes at the catheter tips are heated with radiofrequency energy and will destroy a small spot of heart tissue,
Moreover, it will create an electrical block along the pathway that causes arrhythmia.
Corrective Heart Surgery: In case of congenital heart deformity, your doctor will correct the faulty valve or diseased heart muscle tissue.
This surgery will help to correct the abnormality to improve your heart rate and blood flow, thus reducing your risk of fatal arrhythmias.
Medications and Devices
If you have any health-related problems that in the future might cause you heart conditions the doctor may prescribe you medications for cholesterol or for managing diabetes.
Your doctor can also prescribe you arrhythmic drugs if you have a risk of having a sudden cardiac arrest.
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator can be recommended to you by your doctor as well. You can also consider buying an external defibrillator for home use.
Cardiac arrest is one of those things that can result to be fatal for your health. However, treatment can help improve the chances of survival.
The most effective treatment is when it is given within a few minutes of the arrest.
It is important to understand the cause of your cardiac arrest if you have ever experienced it before. If you want to live a long and healthy life it will depend on how much care you take of yourself.