Medically Reviewed by Alan M. Blaker, MD
The conditions of cardiac arrest or a heart attack are often confused, although both deal with the heart. McLeod Cardiologist Dr. Alan Blaker, Jr., explains the difference and what to do if you find someone in cardiac arrest.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Blaker’s discussion:
So cardiac arrest differs from a heart attack, because in cardiac arrest the heart has suddenly stopped or someone has stopped breathing. Like a heart attack, it’s a medical emergency. But cardiac arrest is a life threatening emergency. And the question is what can you do to maintain some circulation until they can be resuscitated and, hopefully, recover? We certainly see cardiac arrest with a heart attack, but we also see cardiac arrest without a heart attack. It could be something abnormal about the heart muscle. It could be the patient has some other problem, like a low potassium level or some strenuous activity that caused the heart to stop. Or they may have a history of an irregular heart rhythm problem that caused the heart to stop.
Anyone can really be affected by a cardiac arrest. We see it in children. We see it in athletes. We see it in people with underlying heart disease. We see it in people , who have had some viral infection that’s gotten to the heart muscle. We see people with valvular abnormalities, irregular heartbeat or those having a heart attack. So, it’s important to be aware if you have risk factors for heart disease. But unfortunately, it can occur without warning if there’s other problems that just hadn’t been identified yet.
If you witness someone who’s had a cardiac arrest, the first thing to know is to call 911 for help. You have to initiate an emergency response. The next thing to do is to see if they’re responsive and if they have a pulse. If not, then it’s administering hands-only CPR.
To initiate hands-only CPR, the person is lying flat on the ground or on a firm surface. If necessary, try to put something under them for a firm surface. Then, begin compressions at the rate of about 100 times per minute.
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