Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating or beats too irregularly or too weakly to circulate blood effectively. Breathing soon stops. Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening emergency because vital organs live only a few minutes without oxygen-rich blood.
Causes of Cardiac Arrest
Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of cardiac arrest. Drowning, suffocation, and certain drugs can cause breathing to stop, which then causes cardiac arrest. Severe chest injuries or severe blood loss can also cause the heart to beat ineffectively. Electrocution disrupts the heart's own electrical activity and causes the heart to stop.
Prevention of Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest can be prevented by preventing its causes. A good diet, exercise, and not smoking help prevent cardiovascular disease. Prevention of drowning, suffocation, and injury involves safety precautions in work, home, and recreational activities.
Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest
Although cardiac arrest can result from a heart attack, cardiac arrest can occur suddenly without any signs and symptoms of a heart attack first. This occurrence is called sudden death. There are the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest:
- Absence of movement by the casualty.
- Absence of effective breathing.
- Presence of cyanosis or blue coloring of the skin.
- Absence of a carotid pulse.
First Aid for Cardiac Arrest
Because the brain and other vital organs live only for a few minutes after the heart stops, the casualty needs CPR, defibrillation, and advanced emergency medical care. CPR combines rescue breathing and chest compressions. Chest compressions make the blood flow when the heart is not beating. Rescue breathing and chest compressions make the lungs and heart function to some extent.
However, even with CPR, the chance of survival is very slim unless defibrillation can be applied and advanced medical care arrives within 5 minutes. Anyone with a minimum of training can provide defibrillation with an automated external defibrillator (AED).