Cardiac arrest is a fatal heart condition, the word arrest means to stop or bring to a halt. In cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating and this condition is known as sudden cardiac death. The heartbeat is regulated by electrical impulses, when there is a change in the pattern of impulses, the heartbeat becomes irregular, and this is also called an arrhythmia. Some arrhythmias are slow, while others are rapid.

Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening health problem and about 10% of deaths in India are caused due to sudden cardiac arrest and it is also one of the common factors for mortality across the globe. This condition can lead to death or disability, if someone is experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest prompt medical assistance should be provided, as appropriate treatment can save a life. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator or just giving compressions to the chest can increase the chance of survival until emergency treatment is given.
Cardiac arrest vs heart attack

Causes Of Cardiac Arrest

Several factors can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, however, two of the most common factors include ventricular and atrial fibrillation.

Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation is one of the most common causes of cardiac arrest. The heart has four chambers- two atrium and two ventricles. In ventricular fibrillation, these chambers tremor out of control. This causes the heart’s rhythm to change drastically. The ventricles start to pump inefficiently, which greatly reduces the amount of blood pumped via the body. In a few instances, the circulation of blood stops completely leading to sudden cardiac death.

Atrial Fibrillation

The heart can stop beating efficiently after an arrhythmia in the atrium. Atrial fibrillation starts when the sinoatrial (SA) node doesn’t send out the right electrical impulses.SA is situated in the right atrium and it controls how quickly the heart pumps the blood. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the ventricles also can’t pump blood out to the body.

Also Read: The Subtle Signs Of A Heart Attack And First Aid Measures

Who Are At Risk For Cardiac Arrest?

Certain heart problem and health factors can increase a person’s risk of cardiac arrest.

Coronary Heart Disease

This type of heart disease begins in the coronary arteries, these arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. When they are blocked, the heart does not receive and it may stop functioning.

Enlarged Heart

People with abnormally large heart are at increased risk for cardiac arrest, where the heart may not beat properly. The muscles are also prone to damage.

Irregular Heart Valves

Valve disease can make the heart narrow or leaky, where the blood circulating via the heart either overloads the chambers with blood or does not fill them to capacity. The heart chambers may become weakened or enlarged.

Congenital Heart Disease

Some individual is born with heart damage, this condition is known as a congenital heart problem. Sudden cardiac arrest may develop in children who are born with this problem.

Electrical Impulse Problem

Any issue with the heart’s electrical system can elevate the risk of sudden cardiac death and these issues are known as primary heart rhythm abnormalities.

Other risk factors for cardiac arrest include:


Sedentary lifestyle

High blood pressure


Family history of heart disease

History of a previous heart attack

Age over 45 for men, or over 55 for women

Men are at high risk than women

Also Read: Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, Types And Treatment


Early symptoms of cardiac arrest are often warning signs and getting immediate treatment before heart stops can save your life. Symptoms of cardiac arrest are immediate and drastic which include:


Shortness of breath



Heart palpitations

Immediate emergency care is required if someone is experiencing these symptoms

Chest pain

No pulse

Difficulty breathing

Loss of consciousness


Cardiac arrest may not have symptoms before it develops, if you have symptoms that persist, then seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Medical treatment is aimed at getting the blood flowing back to the body. The doctor will perform a test called an electrocardiogram that identifies the type of abnormal heart rhythm. To treat the condition the physician will use a defibrillator to shock the heart, an electric shock can mostly return the heart to a normal rhythm.

Some of the other tests done to determine for signs of a heart attack include measuring potassium, magnesium, hormones and other chemicals that can affect the heart’s ability to function.

 Chest X-ray allows the doctor to look out for the size and shape of the heart and blood vessels. It may also show whether you have any heart failure. Ejection fraction is one of the most important predictors of cardiac arrest. This test measures the percentage of blood that’s pumped out of a filled ventricle with every heartbeat. A normal ejection fraction is 50-70%, where an ejection fraction of less than 40% increases your risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

A nuclear scan test is usually done with a stress test that helps to determine blood flow problems to the heart.

Coronary catheterization is a procedure where a liquid dye is injected into the arteries of the heart through a long thin catheter. As the dye fills arteries, it becomes visible on X-ray and videotape, showing areas of blockage.


Sudden cardiac arrest needs immediate medical attention for survival.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is one form of emergency treatment for cardiac arrest. Defibrillation is another. These treatments helps to get heart beating again once it has stopped.

Patient who had survived a cardiac arrest are put on medications to lower uncontrolled blood pressure and cholesterol levels that may reduce the risk of another heart attack.

Surgery may be needed to repair damaged blood vessels or heart valves that bypass or clear blockages in the arteries.

Dietary modifications and adopting a healthier lifestyle may help to improve cardiac health and wellness.