Cardiac arrest, which also may also be referred to as cardiopulmonary arrest or circulatory arrest, describes a sudden failure of the heart to contract effectively or at all causing insufficient blood circulation around the body to sustain life. Cardiac arrest may result from disruption in the electrical activity of the heart, a reduction in the amount of blood available in the circulation, blood electrolyte imbalances, blood clots obstructing flow, tension pneumothorax, or a mechanical failure of the heart muscle. The sudden stop in perfusion of blood prevents the effective delivery of glucose and oxygen to the brain which causes unconsciousness and collapse. Permanent damage is likely to occur if the condition is not treated within 4 minutes and death may occur shortly thereafter.
Cardiac arrest is a separate and distinct condition from a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, where the blood flow to the heart’s own internal circulation is blocked, although this can sometimes progress to cardiac arrest. As cardiac arrest has multiple causes beyond myocardial infarction, it can affect people of all ages.
Cardiac Arrest Facts:
- Worldwide survival rates for cardiac arrest are poor, ranging from 0% to 28%. The condition causes 15% of all fatalities in Western countries making it one of the leading causes of death.
- Early access to defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart) can be a life saving measure in the event of a person suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. To have the absolute best chance of survival, defibrillation must be carried out in the first few minutes after a person suffers a cardiac arrest.
- Over 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests are treated by emergency medical services each year in England
- The number of people who die each year from sudden cardiac arrest is roughly equivalent to the number who die from Alzheimers disease, assault with firearms, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, HIV, house fires, motor vehicle accidents, prostate cancer and suicides combined.
- After cardiac arrest, comatose patients who have a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) can be cooled to a core temperature of 32–34°C with the aim of reducing brain injury and improving neurological outcome
- A 20% increase in the risk of death has been observed for every hour of delay to initiation of cooling.
The advised treatment for cardiac arrest is rapid defibrillation (if the heart is in a shockable rhythm), reversing treatable causes (such as giving intravenous fluids if there has been blood loss from the circulation), and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to provide circulatory support. Once the heart has restarted, the patient is described as having achieved a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). Beyond this the only treatment which has been shown to confer significant patient benefit is the provision of active cooling. CAERvest® allows paramedics and other first responders to deliver core body cooling in the critical pre-hospital environment, prior to receiving conventional powered methods of cooling in hospital.