Cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function. It is also referred to as sudden cardiac arrest or unexpected cardiac arrest. If not treated within minutes, death can occur.
While cardiac arrest can occur without any cause, the most immediate cause is usually because of an abnormality in the rhythm of the heart or arrhythmia. And an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation most often leads to cardiac arrest. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when quick, electrical impulses cause the ventricles in the heart to quiver instead of pump blood. This causes blood pressure to drop, and cuts off the blood supply to essential organs.
The most common heart condition that can lead to cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease, which develops when arteries in the heart becomes clogged due to the accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits. Coronary artery disease decreases blood flow to the heart, making it difficult for the heart to conduct electrical impulses efficiently.
A person experiencing a cardiac arrest will collapse, stop breathing and lose consciousness. They will also no longer have a pulse.
In some cases, other symptoms may occur before cardiac arrest. These include fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations.
However, cardiac arrest most often occurs without warning.
Immediate action is required to ensure survival. Four to six minutes after a cardiac arrest brain damage and death occur. Persons receiving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and immediate defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart to restore normal heartbeat), along with early advanced care have a better chance of surviving.