Conditions & Symptoms
A heart attack is attributed to a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart and causes heart muscle tissue to die. Cardiac arrest is a malfunction of the heart’s electrical system, which causes the heart to beat irregularly. Cardiac arrest is a true medical emergency that can come on suddenly and result in death quickly; however, the condition is reversible if life-saving measures are implemented right away.
Family history can play a significant role in the risk of experiencing a cardiac event, including inherited arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). Ventricular fibrillation is one of the most common arrhythmias associated with cardiac arrest and is characterized by the lower chamber of the heart suddenly beating erratically. In many cardiac arrest cases, the individual is unaware that they have a heart condition.
Despite sudden onset, there are some telltale signs that indicate cardiac arrest, which can appear up to two weeks before a significant event takes place. Leading up to the event, the person may feel some chest discomfort, shortness of breath, weakness, and a fluttering or fast-beating heart. Men typically experience chest pain, while women commonly report shortness of breath.
Other, more serious symptoms that signify a person may be having a cardiac arrest include:
- Sudden collapse
- Loss of consciousness
- Gasping for air
- No breathing
- Non-responsive to shouting or shaking
- No pulse
To understand the cause and severity of a cardiac arrest event, your doctor may order several different tests, starting with a blood test to check your potassium, magnesium, and hormone levels - all of which can affect your heart’s function. Your doctor might also check for a specific protein in the blood to determine if you have had a prior heart injury that you might not be aware of.
More on Cardiac Arrest
Diagnostic Tests for Cardiac Arrest
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): a type of cardiac imaging test that monitors the heart’s electrical impulses and detects if an individual has certain heart conditions.
- Echocardiogram: another cardiac imaging test that uses sound waves to create an image of your heart.
- Chest X-Ray: to check the size and shape of your heart.
- Nuclear Scan: often accompanied by a stress test, this test helps identify blood flow problems by injecting a tiny amount of radioactive material into your bloodstream.
- Coronary catheterization: a procedure that involves injecting a liquid dye into the arteries of your heart, making your arteries visible on X-ray to reveal blockages.