A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood round your body, commonly because of a problem with electrical signals in your heart.
When your heart stops pumping blood, your brain is starved of oxygen. This causes you to fall unconcious and stop breathing.
What are the signs of a Cardiac Arrest
There are usually no symptoms before a cardiac arrest and, without immediate treatment, it will be fatal. If someone is in cardiac arrest:
they won't be concious
they won't be responsive
they won't be breathing, or breathing normally.
A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If you witness a cardiac arrest, you can increase the person's chances of survival by phoning 999 immediately and giving CPR.
What causes a cardiac arrest?
The most common cause of a cardiac arrest is a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).
Ventricular fibrillation happens when the electrical activity of your heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping and quivers or 'fibrillates' instead.
Heart-related causes of cardiac arrest:
Coronary heart disease
Cardiomyopathy and some inherited heart conditions
Congenital heart disease
Heart valve disease
Acute myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
Heart conduction disorders that make you more likely to experience abnormal heart rhythms, such as Long QT Syndrome.
Other causes of cardiac arrest:
Severe haemorrhage - losing a large amount of blood
Can you recover from a cardiac arrest?
VF can sometimes be corrected by giving an electric shock through the chest wall, by using a device called a defibrillator. This can be done by a member of the public (using a public access defibrillator, the emergency services or at hospital.
Immediate CPR will keep oxygen circulating around the body until a defibrillator can be used and/or until the emergency services arrive.
What's the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack?
People often think that a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are the same thing, but that isn't true.
A heart attack happens when blood supplying the heart muscle is cut off due to a clot in one of the coronary arteries. This can cause chest pain, although symptoms can be less severe, and can permanently damage the heart. The heart is still sending blood to the body and the person will be consious and breathing. A person having a heart attack has a high risk of experiencing a cardiac arrest.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, often because of a problem with the electrical signals to the heart muscle. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly collapse and will stop breathing.
Both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are life-threatening medical emergencies - call 999 immediately if you witness someone having a cardiac arrest or think you or someone you're with is having a heart attack.