Cardiac Arrest: Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnostic Procedures, Treatment, Specialists & Doctors
Cardiac arrest is a grave heart condition. It is the abrupt loss of the heart function in a person wherein the heart fails to beat or pump, all of a sudden. It is also called sudden cardiac arrest as it happens abruptly and can be deadly if necessary measures are not taken right away. Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone with or without pre-requisite heart conditions. A large number of cardiac arrest cases are experienced outside the hospital setting and evidently, require immediate health assistance. With the immediate and appropriate response, we can help prevent any person from succumbing to this deadly attack, thus saving lives.
How is cardiac arrest different from a heart attack?
Sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are two distinct heart conditions which many people mistake as one and the same thing. A heart attack happens when there is obstruction of blood flow to the heart which does not necessarily halt the heart from beating, whereas a sudden cardiac arrest is when heart malfunctions, leading to sudden loss of heartbeat. It is crucial to understand the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack in order to take appropriate measures.
What causes cardiac arrest?
An electrical system controls and manages your heartbeat; its rate and rhythm. When there is a disruption in the heart’s electrical system, the heartbeat becomes irregular and abnormal. This abnormality in the heartbeat is known as arrhythmias. Arrhythmia can be of different types based on the varying heartbeat rates- from slow to fast, which can cause cardiac arrest. There are quite a few factors that can trigger sudden cardiac arrest with the two most common being ventricular fibrillation and atrial fibrillation.
Ventricular fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that happens when the ventricles or lower chambers of the heart do not beat normally and flutter out of control. Ventricular fibrillation is the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac arrest and followed by death.
Atrial fibrillation is another type of arrhythmia that happens when the upper chambers or the atria of the heart fail to send correct electrical impulses and consequently, the ventricles fail to plump blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This failure to plump blood can lead to a cardiac arrest.
Who is at risk of a cardiac arrest?
It is true that a sudden cardiac arrest can happen anyone, even those people who have had no known heart disease. However, there are certain heart conditions and health factors that can increase your risk of a cardiac arrest. These conditions are:
- Coronary Heart Disease
Majority of people with coronary heart disease suffer from a sudden cardiac, consequently. Coronary heart disease begins when the coronary arteries are clogged with cholesterol and other deposits, preventing the heart to receive blood. This can obstruct the heart from functioning properly.
- Valvular Heart Disease
Valvular heart disease leads to leaking or narrowing of your heart valves. In other words, the blood circulating through the heart can overload the chambers with blood or fail to fill them
as required. The stress and strain on the chambers and muscle of the heart can develop arrhythmia.
- Large Heart
When your heart’s muscular walls stretch and swell, they increase your risk of a possible cardiac arrest. An enlarged heart can cause damage to the heart’s muscles and lead to arrhythmia.
- Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease implies those people born with a serious heart problem. Children or adolescents who have congenital heart disease may suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest. Even adults who’ve had surgery done for a congenital heart problem are still at the greater risk of a sudden cardiac arrest.
- Electrical Impulse Problems
People with problems in the heart’s electrical system rather than in the valves and muscles are also at risk of a sudden cardiac death. These problems in the heart’s electrical system are called primary heart rhythm abnormalities, including heart conditions such as long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome.
There are a number of other risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking or vaping, sedentary or inactive lifestyle, obesity, family history of heart disease, history of a previous heart attack, substance abuse, and nutritional imbalance such as low potassium or magnesium levels. Also, males are more at risk of a cardiac arrest than females; likewise, growing old can increase the risk of a sudden cardiac arrest.
What are the signs and symptoms of a cardiac arrest?
Knowing and identifying symptoms of a cardiac arrest early when they occur, is crucial so that one can seek the right treatment at the right time. If you are in cardiac arrest, you may experience a racing heartbeat, feel dizzy, be short of breath, feel fatigued, or even puke. Any of any these symptoms should not be ignored. Time is of the essence and seeking medical assistance promptly if the symptoms persist is a must. However, not all cardiac arrests occur with prior symptoms as they could be immediate and drastic. Seek emergency help if you or someone you are with experiences chest pain, no pulse, breathing problem or no breathing, unconsciousness, etc.
How to diagnose a cardiac arrest?
Since cardiac arrest occurs when the heart fails to beat all of a sudden, the immediate medical assistance should be to bring the rhythm back to the heart. Electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the most common tests performed to detect the electrical activity of the heart; it can reveal the type of abnormal rhythm your heart is going through. In this treatment, a defibrillator is used to give electric shock to the heart to bring the heart rhythm back to normal. If the patient survives the sudden cardiac arrest, the doctor will try to identify the cause in order to help prevent any further such attacks in future by administering tests such as blood tests and chest X-ray. Blood tests can help identify signs of a heart attack and check the levels of magnesium, potassium, and other chemicals affecting the heart’s health. Chest X-ray can help the doctor to scrutinize the size and shape of the heart as well as other signs of heart problem.
How to treat a cardiac arrest in emergency?
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are the two emergency treatments for a sudden cardiac arrest. CPR helps the lungs to retain enough oxygen and pass it to the brain until the normal heart rhythm is restored with defibrillation or an electric shock to the chest. These treatments help the heart regain its beating even after stopping.
To sum it all, cardiac arrest can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Receiving immediate medical care is vital to save life. If you or someone you love have any of the risk factors mentioned above, it is important to seek your doctor’s guidance on how to reduce these risks. Attempting a change of lifestyle and taking prescribed medicines regularly can reduce the risk. If you have experienced a cardiac arrest, consult your doctor about the possible treatment options so that you can protect your heart and prevent cardiac arrest from recurrence. You can book an appointment with us at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad by reaching us at www.yashodahealthcare.com. We have the best cardiologists in the whole of Delhi NCR.
Dr. Alok Sehgal (Chief Consultant, Interventional Cardiology)
With over 20 years of experience in the medical field, Dr. Alok Sehgal has worked at the some of the best institutions in the department of cardiology such as Christian Medical College, Vellore, Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, Delhi and SGPGI Lucknow. He performs over 150 angioplasties and 500 diagnostic cardiac procedures annually and specializes in all kinds of diagnostic peripheral vascular diseases, cardiac catheterization as well as angiographic studies on adults and children, spanning the spectrum of congenital, rheumatic, coronary and peripheral arterial disease.
Dr. Amit Rai (Senior Consultant, Cardiology & Medicine)
Dr. Amit Rai has a vast experience in the field of clinical cardiology and medicine being in the medical field for the last 34 years. With a fellowship in non-invasive cardiology, Navin C. Nanda National Institute of Echo Cardiography & Cardiac Research, New Delhi, is one of the most super-skilled cardiologists for all your heart problems.