Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest, call 911 immediately.
Dignity Health’s heart care services range from prevention and chronic disease management to advanced diagnostic procedures and treatments, always with the goal of keeping your heart beating strong. Our specialized and coordinated heart care program uses the latest cardiac interventional treatments, as well as state-of-the-art operating rooms.
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Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest are very clear:
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- Absence of a pulse
Causes of Cardiac Arrest
A common cause of cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation. This occurs when the large chambers of the heart (the ventricles) stop beating rhythmically. Without a strong contraction by the ventricles, oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the tissues — including the brain and the heart. The heart will eventually stop beating. Ventricular tachycardia, which occurs when the heart beats too fast to sustain a rhythm, also can cause cardiac arrest.
Signs and symptoms of an arrhythmia that can precede cardiac arrest include:
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
- Rapid or erratic pulse
- Feeling like your heart is pounding
- Unusually slow pulse (fewer than 60 beats per minute)
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy, woozy, or lightheaded
Arrhythmias that induce cardiac arrest can be caused by a variety of factors including:
- Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) due to such conditions as heart failure, high blood pressure, or heart valve disease
- Electrical abnormalities, such as Long QT Syndrome or Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome
- Prior heart attack or heart surgery that causes scarring of the cardiac tissue
- Drug abuse
- Side effect of medications used to correct an abnormal heart rhythm
- Severe dehydration or severe electrolyte imbalances
Worried about cardiovascular disease? Learn your risk by taking our free heart health assessment today.
Treatment & Prevention of Cardiac Arrest
The treatment and prevention of cardiac arrest depends on the cause. Someone in cardiac arrest may survive with immediate treatment.
Treatment of cardiac arrest includes:
- Calling 911 for emergency medical responders
- Using an automated external defibrillator (AED), if available
- Initiating cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
To prevent possible cardiac arrest, you should:
- Treat and monitor any known heart condition
- Treat and monitor any known electrical abnormalities of your heart
- Refrain from illicit drugs
- Discuss with your doctor the potential side effects of any medication you take to correct a heart rhythm problem
- Engage in a heart-healthy lifestyle
- Obtain a heart examination before competing in sports activities
Dignity Health provides specialized care for cardiovascular conditions, including cardiac arrest, in Southern California.