Cardiac Arrest is…

Cardiac arrest is the medical term used when your heart has stopped working effectively as a pump to pump blood containing oxygen around the body.

Why does Cardiac Arrest happen?

Your heart is an electromechanical pump which pumps blood around the body to all your vital organs, particularly your brain.

When something goes wrong with either the pumping mechanism or the electrical activity that controls the heart then your heart may cease to beat effectively.  This is known as cardiac arrest.

If no one is available to start cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) both the heart muscle and the brain suffer irreversible damage leading to death.

Sudden Cardiac arrest can occur at any time, to any one, irrespective of their age, and survival can very much depend on whether prompt CPR is commenced and how quickly they can be “shocked” using a defibrillator.

What causes Cardiac Arrest?

The causes for cardiac arrest are varied and include:

  • Furring of the arteries due to cardiovascular disease
  • Blockages of the arteries in your heart (heart attack)
  • Poisoning
  • Electrocution
  • Shock and blood loss
  • Respiratory problems

As we get older the causes are more likely to be due to furring or blockages occurring in the arteries in your heart (heart attack).

In younger adults and children the causes may be more varied and could be due to:

  • genetic abnormalities
  • enlarged heart muscle
  • problems with the heart valves
  • problems with the way in which the electrical impulses are conducted through the heart
  • Infections (some drugs may also affect the heart muscle).

Cardiac Arrest in the News

With the collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba from a cardiac arrest, and similar cases relating to other high profile figures, the use of Automatic External defibrillators (AEDs) has been brought very much to the forefront of the news. Sadly, often such problems are not detected until the person collapses.  Once collapsed, rapid, appropriate action is critical to give the best chance of survival.

There are approximately 60,000 cardiac arrests that happen each year in the UK out of hospital.  Survival is very variable across the UK with only  2-12% surviving to be discharged from treatment.  Survival rates can be improved by bystanders performing prompt effective CPR.

How is Cardiac Arrest treated?

Cardiac arrest is treated by prompt CPR and Defibrillation of the heart, using an automated external Defibrillator (AED).

The defibrillator gives a controlled electric shock to the heart muscle which stops any abnormal electrical rhythm in the heart and allows the heart’s own internal pacemaker to start working effectively again. It does not “jump start” the heart.

Useful resources:

First Aid Training

A range of training courses is available to help you learn CPR and other key life saving skills, including:

Other Resources

HTS Training have made all reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, there may be occasional and inadvertent errors. HTS Training therefore make no warranty, either express or implied, and accept no liability for any inaccuracies or omissions, nor for any decisions based on the information contained herein. Such decisions remain the responsibility of the reader. We would always recommend undertaking regular first aid training, and following the latest guidance provided as a part of that course.

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