Cardiac Arrest

Definition - What does Cardiac Arrest mean?

Cardiac arrest refers to an irregular heartbeat and sudden stoppage of the heart due to an electrical signal problem in the body. During cardiac arrest, the electrical signals controlling the muscle activity of the heart malfunction. These malfunctions may take the form of erratic contractions within individual heart muscles or a complete arrest of muscle activity.

Cardiac arrest causes the heart to stops pumping. Once the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating throughout the body. Then, the organs of the body are deprived of oxygen and cannot function property. Shortly after the onset of cardiac arrest, the sufferer will experience shallow breathing and then lose consciousness as blood flow to the brain ceases. The symptoms of of cardiac arrest are sudden and distinct and should not be ignored.

If not treated immediately, cardiac arrest leads to death as the bodies vital organs are deprived of the oxygen needed for survival. A person's chances of surviving cardiac arrest are reduced by 10% for every minute that the heart does not pump. Emergency treatments including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are essential for a patient's survival once cardiac arrest has occurred. These treatments attempt to deliver blood to the body and restart the heart following a cardiac arrest event.

Cardiac arrest may also be called cardiopulmonary arrest or circulatory arrest.

WorkplaceTesting explains Cardiac Arrest

Heart attacks are sometimes mistaken for cardiac arrest by non-medical professionals. However, heart attacks and cardiac arrest have different causes and results. During a heart attack, the arteries leading to the heart are blocked, causing the muscles of the heart to die due to lack of oxygen. This event is also called myocardial infarction, a term meaning "death of heart muscle." While possible for the heart to stop from a heart attack, it is uncommon and damage generally occurs over longer periods of time where as a cardiac arrest is sudden and caused by an electrical signal problem. A heart attack can cause the electrical problem leading to a cardiac arrest.

Physical damage to the heart from an electric shock or drug abuse can trigger cardiac arrest. Cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, and congenital heart disease may also create conditions that trigger cardiac arrest.

Because coronary heart disease is a leading cause of cardiac arrest, prevention efforts often focus on prevention of this condition. Heart healthy measures such as not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, maintaining a nutritious diet, and exercising are all beneficial. For high risk patients, a doctor may recommend the use of a implantable defibrillator or medications. At-risk individuals can also purchase an automated external defibrillator (AED) and ask family and friends to become certified in using the AED and in CPR to help improve their chances of surviving cardiac arrest.

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