Cardiac Arrest

When the heart stops functioning, blood isn’t delivered to the different parts of the body. This initiates a cascade of events which lead to deprivation of oxygen of the different body systems, unconsciousness, cell injury and death, compensation mechanisms initiated by the brain, cessation of breathing and ultimately, the end of life. This event is termed as cardiac arrest.


What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is also termed as cardiopulmonary arrest or CP arrest and circulatory arrest. It is a state wherein there is the cessation of the normal spontaneous circulation of blood due to the heart’s incapability to contract effectively, leading to a myriad of reactions that occur in a matter of seconds. Contrary to popular belief, cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack but it can be a cause.


In cardiac arrest, since blood doesn’t circulate to the body, this leads to the deprivation of oxygen and glucose to the tissues. When there’s inadequate amount of oxygen and glucose, both of which are needed by the brain to function, this leads to loss of consciousness then leads to abnormal or even absence of respiration. Brain injury is expected when there’s deprivation of oxygen and glucose for more than 5 minutes. Longer than that, brain death or severe brain injury is to be expected.

Cardiac arrest is considered as a medical emergency wherein prompt intervention is needed. If left unanswered, it can likely lead to death or irreversible neurological and/or organ damage if a person is saved – death can occur in minutes and that small time limit is utilized by healthcare professionals to deliver interventions to save lives. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR and defibrillation are essential interventions in treating cardiac arrest and saving lives of patients.

Medical practitioners classify cardiac arrest into two types – shockable and non-shockable. This is determined by observing their ECG (electrocardiogram) rhythms to determine whether or not the cardiac dysrhythmia can be treated by delivering shock or defibrillation. The shockable rhythms are ventricular fibrillation and pulseless ventricular tachycardia. The non-shockable rhythms are pulseless electrical activity and asystole (flatline).

What are the Signs of Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is characterized by the abrupt halt in the heart’s contraction, leading to cessation in the blood circulation and leads to a number of events that can damage the tissues due to lack of oxygen and glucose. Healthcare practitioners watch for cues that indicate cardiac arrest to initiate emergency treatment quickly. Here are some of the signs that indicate cardiac arrest.
● Loss of consciousness
● Absence of palpable pulse
● Cessation of breathing

How is Cardiac Arrest Managed?

Cardiac arrest is considered as a medical emergency. Swift delivery of medical intervention is done, not only to revive the patient, but also to prevent or minimize the damage that oxygen deprivation has done to the tissues. The treatment of cardiac arrest lies in three main components – CPR, defibrillation and emergency medications.

In CPR, perfusion is promoted with each pump to prevent oxygen deprivation to the tissues. Defibrillation attempts to restart the heart by delivering a set electrical discharge. Emergency medications help in compensating the functions of the heart and other organs in order to revive the patient.  Read more...