Immediate sudden cardiac arrest treatment is key to preventing death when unexpected loss of heart function occurs. There are specific guidelines when treating those who have sudden cardiac arrest, as well as tips to prevent the risk of such a devastating heart episode.
Sudden cardiac arrest is often confused with heart attack, but let’s be clear – they are not the same. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the heart is disrupted or stops, whereas a cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating. When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, usually an electrical disturbance in the heart disrupts its pumping action and thus stops blood flow to the rest of the body. Sometimes, a heart attack can trigger an electrical disruption that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.
With prompt medical treatment, people can survive a sudden cardiac arrest. CPR improves the chances of survival until qualified emergency personnel can attend to the patient.
First aid steps to help patient with sudden cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest treatment must begin from the moment signs of an arrest have occurred. Oftentimes, a person suddenly loses consciousness, normal breathing stops, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of life. In cases like this, there are some basic first aid steps that need to be followed.
- Intervene immediately – the chances of survival decrease 10 percent with each passing minute.
- Call 911 – if possible, have someone call emergency services while you stay with the cardiac arrest victim.
- Check for AED – if an automated external defibrillator (AED) is nearby, then grab it. Apply the electrode pads to the person’s chest as shown on diagrams that are with the AED. Follow the voice and visual prompts. The electric shock can restore a normal heart rhythm.
- Perform CPR if qualified – if there is no AED and you are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, push down hard and fast in the center of the chest about 30 times. Give two breaths and repeat.
- No AED/Untrained in CPR – when there is no AED available and you are not trained in CPR, push down hard and fast in the center of the chest.
The importance of treatment for sudden cardiac arrest can’t be stressed enough. It is crucial for everyone to take CPR and AED training since emergency personnel can’t always get to a victim’s side quickly enough. One of the most common reasons that a cardiac arrest sufferer does not survive is because a bystander hesitated to help.
How to detect sudden cardiac arrest
So we know what you are thinking – stepping in is easier said than done. Prevention of sudden cardiac death is a huge responsibility and what if you aren’t sure what is actually happening? Well, here’s how you can try detecting whether a person has in fact suffered sudden cardiac arrest.
Watch for sudden collapse. The person may lose consciousness or fall without any warning.
Check pulse. In cases of sudden cardiac arrest, the person will not have a pulse, so check for a pulse. Radial pulse is located on the wrist. Feel around the person’s wrist using your index finger and middle finger. The carotid pulse in on the neck. Press two fingers on the side of the neck in the hollow area just beside the person’s Adam’s apple.
Check for breathing. There will be no breathing if it is cardiac arrest. You can listen by placing your ear close to the person’s mouth or put your hand on their chest to see if you see or feel a rise and fall.
Speak to them. Ask the person if they are okay and see if they respond.
Obviously, if there is no breathing, no pulse, and no response, you then begin administering basic life support.
Treatment options for sudden cardiac arrest
If a person appears to be unconscious, you should begin CPR for one minute and then call 911. If you are trying to rescue a child, perform CPR for two minutes, then call for emergency help. When an AED is available, it is best to administer one shock, then start CPR.
It is advisable to start chest compressions by putting the heel of one hand in the center of the victim’s chest and cover the first hand with the other hand. Use upper body weight to push down on the person’s chest at about 100 compressions per minute. You can continue chest compressions until emergency help has arrived if you are not trained in CPR. Those who are trained can gently tilt the head back and lift the chin to open up the airway after about 30 compressions. If the person isn’t breathing, give them two breaths. Pinch the nostrils shut and give a one-second breath. If the chest does not rise, give a second breath.
When it comes to defibrillation, the machines are programmed to recognize ventricular fibrillation and shock only when it’s appropriate. Portable defibrillators can be found in a number of public places today.
Once a patient of sudden cardiac arrest arrives in the emergency room, medical staff works hard to stabilize the condition. This includes administering medications. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator may be recommended once a person has been in fact stabilized. It is inserted near the left collar bone with one or more electrode-tipped wires running through veins and into the heart. It can send out low or high energy shocks when necessary.
Long-term treatment could involve a coronary angioplasty to open up any blocked arteries, which may reduce the risk of serious arrhythmia. Coronary bypass surgery, which involves sewing veins or arteries in place in an area beyond a blocked or narrow artery, is an option. Radiofrequency catheter ablation, a procedure that focuses on blocking a single abnormal electrical pathway, is also a possibility. In some situations, such as a deformity or diseased heart muscle, corrective heart surgery is required.
Tips to reduce risk of sudden cardiac arrest
The best course of action is, of course, prevention of cardiac arrest. While there is no clear and easy way to guarantee you will never experience a cardiac episode, there are steps you can take to lower your chances.
- Don’t smoke
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
When a person already has a heart condition, their doctor will likely advise on specific steps that include how to stop cardiac arrest. Doctors may suggest taking medications for high cholesterol or recommend certain steps for managing diabetes. Those who are considered high risk may want to consider purchasing an automated external defibrillator for their home. AEDs can be expensive, but you have to ask yourself, should I really be putting a price on my life?
If you live with someone who has a heart condition or might be vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest for some reason, it is important that you be proactive. This means making sure that you are trained in CPR and becoming familiar with an AED. The American Red Cross and other health organizations offer CPR and defibrillation courses on a regular basis. These courses are usually not too expensive and won’t take up much of your time. Just think about how many more lives can be saved, if everyone could respond immediately in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.