Cardiac arrest is an emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops functioning.
People who suffer cardiac arrest lose consciousness and stop breathing because of a lack of blood flow to the entire body. Without an effective heartbeat or blood pressure, the brain and other vital organs are deprived of blood, leading to death within minutes. Cardiac arrest requires immediate, advanced medical attention for a chance of survival.
Several factors can increase the risk for developing heart rhythm problems that can trigger cardiac arrest. These factors include:
Treatments for Cardiac Arrest
Outside of the Hospital
When people experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital, immediate treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) can help restore the heart's normal rhythm. AEDs are portable devices found in many public areas that deliver an electrical shock to the heart.
Properly-administered Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can also 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.
At the Hospital
Inova Heart and Vascular Institute physicians have experience treating cardiac arrest survivors or patients at very high risk for cardiac arrest.
Resuscitating and stabilizing the patient is the highest priority and we utilize targeted temperature management from the earliest point of care to ensure full neurological recovery. Our multi-specialty team then focuses on identifying and treating the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest as well as providing measures to prevent further episodes of cardiac arrest. These therapies include optimizing medications, opening blockage in the heart arteries, and eliminating lethal heart rhythms.
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.