Skip to main content

8110 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops functioning. With no effective heartbeat, the brain and other vital organs are deprived of blood, leading to death within minutes.

People who suffer cardiac arrest lose consciousness and stop breathing. They have no pulse or blood pressure.

Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. The heart usually continues beating during a heart attack. But cardiac arrest may occur as a result of a heart attack.

An estimated 250,000 to 450,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest each year. Many die, often before receiving advanced medical attention.

The most common cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation, a dangerous type of ventricular arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm.

Subcutaneous Implantable Defibrillator (S-ICD)

Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is proud to offer the world's first commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. This device is an implanted defibrillator with no heart-implanted wire electrodes. An Inova patient was the first to receive the device in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, metro area.

Learn more about the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD System) from Boston Scientific.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk for developing heart rhythm problems that can trigger cardiac arrest. These factors include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Family history or genetic conditions
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Treatments for Cardiac Arrest

Outside of the hospital, immediate treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) – a device that delivers an electrical shock to the heart – can help restore the heart's normal rhythm when victims experience cardiac arrest. AEDs are portable devices found in many public areas.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), when performed properly, can help provide adequate blood circulation until defibrillation and other emergency care is available. The odds of surviving cardiac arrest decline dramatically during every minute that defibrillation or CPR is not provided.

Once at the hospital, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute physicians have experience treating those who are either survivors of cardiac arrest or patients at a very high risk for cardiac arrest.

The recommended surgical treatment is often an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Our physicians may also prescribe medications or perform procedures to address underlying coronary artery disease and other problems that can cause cardiac arrest.

For comatose survivors of cardiac arrest, our physicians use the innovative Arctic Sun that circulates water in external cooling pads to lower a patient’s body temperature to between 32 and 34 degrees centigrade, inducing mild hypothermia. Therapeutic hypothermia helps reduce the risk of injury to the brain following cardiac arrest by blunting the body’s natural inflammatory response. The sooner cooling initiates, the better the outcome. 

Conditions Treated by ...

Text

Learn More About ...

Our Team

Cardiac arrest is an emergency. Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is the largest provider of emergency cardiac care in Northern Virginia. Inova Fairfax Hospital is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center.

Our emergency teams care for the most acute cases, including AirCare transfers from other hospitals within a 200-mile radius in Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

The recommended surgical treatment is often an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Inova Heart and Vascular physicians have considerable experience with this procedure, implanting more than 500 devices a year. Our physicians may also prescribe medications or perform procedures to address underlying coronary artery disease and other problems that can cause cardiac arrest.

Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is among an elite group of hospitals in the nation to develop hypothermia protocols for comatose survivors of cardiac arrest. Arctic Sun is an advanced, noninvasive technique to lower a patient’s body temperature, inducing mild hypothermia. The survival rate is excellent for those who have this therapy.

Four types of physicians manage the various treatment options include general cardiologists, electrophysiologists, interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.

Find a Doctor