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Cardiac Arrest Kills Quickly

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, June 26, 2009 3:50 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Cardiac Arrest, Defibrillator, CPR, American Heart Association, Induced Hypothermia, Heart Attack, Michael Jackson

Sudden cardiac death is fatal at least 80 percent of the time unless there is immediate intervention.

People Don't Know What To Do



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Street defibrillator/ author: Snowdog


While the cause of Michael Jackson’s apparent cardiac arrest won’t be known for weeks, what is known is that the sudden stopping of a heart can happen for many reasons - choking, drug overdose, or trauma, among them. 

Within minutes the person will stop breathing and lose consciousness, then lose their pulse and blood pressure.  Only about one in five who experience cardiac arrest survive, but survival rates are increased if one is revived with a defibrillator immediately after the cardiac arrest.

USA Today reports that a heart attack is not the same thing as cardiac arrest.  Heart attack results when blood flow is blocked to the heart causing damage to heart muscles.   The patient may still be able to walk and talk, according to Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  

But cardiac arrest, which usually results from a weakened heart due to heart disease, leads to an abnormal, rapid heartbeat, and unconsciousness.  A complication is ventricular fibrillation, an electric disturbance to the heart, which causes it to beat erratically.  

A genetic predisposition to cardiac arrest makes up only about five percent of cases, reports USA Today.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” host, the late Tim Russert, suffered cardiac arrest at work last June, one of 1,000 individuals a day who suffers cardiac arrest.

Bystander action is strongly urged by the American Heart Association as every second as brain death begins in four to six minutes.

Defibrillators Are Everywhere

Automatic External Defibrillation, or AED,  restores normal heart rhythm in cardiac arrest.   Their use is reported to be geared for the uninitiated bystander who may be in a mall, an office, restaurant, or school. 

Pam Foster, an American Heart Association trainer says it’s easy.  “Retrieve the AED, turn on the button and it talks to you and tells you exactly what to do.”

Immediately after calling 911, the bystander needs to start pushing on the chest to the beat of the Bee Gees “Stayin Alive” reports USA Today.     The paper reports that in Honolulu at the airport, cardiac survival rate went from one percent to 80 percent after a CPR/AED program was initiated.   

Without CPR and defibrillation, the chance of survival goes down seven to ten percent every minute. 

80 percent of cardiac arrests occur in the home, workplace or some public place, but the survival rate remains four to six percent because “people don’t know what to do,” says Foster. 

If a defibrillator restarts a heart but the person is unconscious, induced hypothermia may be tried. That lowers the person’s body temperature to about 91 degrees to minimize brain damage and allow the body to get by with less oxygen.  The hypothermic induced coma usually lasts about 24 hours. 

King County, outside of Seattle, leads the nation in hypothermia treatment along with Rochester, Minnesota and Austin, Texas.  

Jon Duffey, runs The Zapper, a Web site community for cardioverter-defibrillator implant recipients, families, and care givers. Last June he talked to IB News about the need for AED’s in public places.

In November 2000, President Clinton signed the federal “Cardiac Arrest Survival Act”, (Public Law 106-505, encouraging placement of AEDs in federal buildings and providing civil immunity for authorized users considered the Good Samaritans.  State laws vary as to the requirements of persons who use an AED in a public setting without specific training.

The American Heart Association has a CPR/AED training program online and offers training programs CPR and emergency cardiac care or ECC in your area.   #


Posted by Mary Newman
Saturday, June 27, 2009 11:23 AM EST

For more information about sudden cardiac arrest, visit www.sca-aware.org.

Posted by Mike Bryant
Saturday, June 27, 2009 5:32 PM EST

Very helpful information , the time and where you are is vital.

Anonymous User
Posted by Daniel 8791
Saturday, June 27, 2009 8:29 PM EST

I'm quite surprised that someone as high profile and wealthy as Michael Jackson didn't have one of these with him (at least most of the time). Sad to see him pass so young, he will be missed greatly; as he was such an incredible entertainer and fun loving guy.

Comments for this article are closed.

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