Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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Cardiac Arrest
Chest pain and discomfort is a common sign / symptom of cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest refers to a sudden, loss of heart function. The effect is always unexpected and also leads to loss of breathing, eventually causing unconsciousness. Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs due to electrical disturbances in the heart that may interrupt its normal pumping, causing the cessation of blood flow to all the parts of your body.

Sudden cardiac arrest not the same as a heart attack, which takes place as a result of blood flow being blocked to a portion of the heart. However, a heart attack may trigger electrical disturbances that can bring rise to a sudden cardiac arrest.

It is imperative to note that a sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If the condition is not treated promptly, it can cause death. However, with immediate appropriate medical treatment, recovery can be possible. Administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until the ambulance arrives can increase chances of survival.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of cardiac arrest are rapid and drastic:

  • Sudden collapse
  • Absent breathing
  • Absent pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

Sometimes people may experience other signs and symptoms before a sudden cardiac arrest. Signs and symptoms may include fatigue, blackouts, and fainting, chest pain, dizziness and weakness, shortness of breathing, vomiting or heart palpitations. Usually sudden cardiac arrest occurs without any warning signs.

When to seek medical attention

Is you experience recurrent chest pain or discomfort or any of the following problems, see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeats
  • Unexplained wheezing
  • Fainting or feeling faint when you are dizzy or feeling light-headed
  • Shortness of breath

If the above symptoms are ongoing, call 911 or seek emergency medical help immediately.


If the heart stops functioning, the lack of oxygenated blood may result in brain damage in just a few minutes. Permanent brain damage or death can take place within 4-6 minutes; therefore, immediate medical treatment is necessary to increase chances of survival. In such an emergency situation, time is crucial when you are with a person who is not breathing. You can also increase his chances of survival by taking the following steps:

  • Call 911 immediately or any local emergency number if you see someone who has collapsed and does not seem to respond. If a child is unconscious, administer CPR or chest compressions for two minutes prior to calling 911.
  • Perform CPR.  Check if the person is breathing. If the casualty is not breathing normally or is not breathing, begin CPR immediately. Push the chest hard, without worrying about causing damages to the internal structures, unless the person is a child. Perform 100 chest compressions per minute. If you have been trained to perform CPR, check the casualty’s airways and give rescue breaths after 30 chest compressions. Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions and repeat this cycle until help arrives. Continue performing CPR until a portable defibrillator or medical personnel arrives.

Use a portable defibrillator, if available. If you are not trained to use it, call 911 or a local emergency number to guide you have to use it. Deliver a single shock if stated in the device and administer CPR with chest compressions or hands only CPR for two minutes. Use the portable defibrillator to check the heart rhythm. Repeat the cycle until the person regains consciousness or medical personnel arrive.

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