10 facts you should know about cardiac arrest

Thursday, January 26th, 2023 12:52 | By
Illustration of a cardiac arrest PHOTO/Google Pixels

1. It is highly fatal

A cardiac arrest has an extremely high mortality rate. Around 95 per cent who experience the condition die.

2. Survivors can face lasting health problems

Mild to severe brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain is common in cardiac arrest survivors, who often need intensive rehabilitation once they are discharged from the hospital.

Between 30 and 50 percent of cardiac arrest survivors experience cognitive deficits as a result, according to an article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience in March 2018.

Survivors are also disproportionately burdened by mental illness — about 40 per cent have anxiety, 30 per cent have depression, and 25 per cent have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of cardiac arrest.

3. A Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack

Many people have a misconception that a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are the same. However, that could not be further from the truth. A heart attack happens when a blocked artery slows or cuts off blood flow to the heart, but usually the heart continues beating.

Patients tend to experience symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, but they are still conscious and responsive. On the other hand, in a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating. A person will be completely unresponsive, and you need to start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) right away.

4. Each minute counts

When it comes to a sudden cardiac arrest, a minute might be fine. However, patientst would be dead by the next minute. To survive, the victim needs immediate CPR and treatment with a defibrillator. Victims of cardiac arrest can be saved if a defibrillator device is immediately available to deliver an electric shock to restore the heart to its normal rhythm. For every minute that passes without defibrillation, chances of survival decreases by 14 per cent.

Research shows that applying a controlled shock within five minutes of collapse provides the best possible chance of survival. Still, most cases can be managed by giving CPR at the right time. Hence, the need for everyone to learn CPR. This helps keep oxygen supply intact until proper medical help arrives. It is quite easy for people to get trained on CPR, which can help save the life of a stranger or a family member.

5. Hospital care is important, but may come too late

A “chain of survival” is needed for a person to have the best chance of surviving cardiac arrest. The steps in this chain are calling emergency service or ambulance, performing high-quality CPR, defibrillation, advanced CPR by medical professionals, hospital care, and recovery. Many different hospital treatments may be promising for cardiac arrest patients, including use of an external device to pump blood, inserting a stent to treat any heart blockages, and cooling the person to protect their brain once normal heart rhythm is restored. But doctors are still figuring out how to maximise survival with the tools they have.

6. Cardiac arrest doesn’t only happen during physical activity

In fictional portrayals of cardiac arrest, a character often collapses while performing some kind of physically demanding task. In real life, a person may or may not be doing something physically taxing when cardiac arrest happens.

7. Most cases occur at home

While cardiac arrest that happens in public places tends to get more attention, about seven in 10 cases occur when a person is at home and have a high chance of being ignored. There is a high chance of recurrence, and statistics indicate that less than two per cent of people survive if they suffer a repeat attack within a month.

8. Cardiac arrest can strike without warning

Sudden cardiac arrest may occur in active people who seem to be healthy and have no known medical conditions. However, it  is often seen in patients who have had a prior heart attack. Some cases are caused by congestive heart failure. This is due to cardiovascular disease, where there is an accumulation of fat deposits on the walls of the blood vessels. This leads to narrowing of the vessel thickness, and reduced blood supply to the various parts of the body. When the blood supply is significantly reduced, there is a heart attack. A similar blood supply cut off to the brain would lead to stroke.

9. It occurs at any age

It is common for people to think that an older person would experience sudden cardiac arrest. However, anyone can suffer from the condition at any age.

10. Awareness and prevention key to reducing related deaths

Since coronary artery disease (CAD) is a leading cause of cardiac arrest, one of the best ways to reduce cardiac arrest deaths is to make sure people get screened and treated. There are also risk factors associated with it, such as high cholesterol or hypertension. If you are seeing your physician regularly, that’s something that could potentially be controlled.

More on Features