Avoiding Cardiac Arrest: A Review of New Prevention Guidelines
More than 350,000 people annually suffer from cardiac arrest according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2015 statistics. Of these, as many as 1 in 10 won’t live long enough to receive treatment in a hospital. This alarming number provides researchers the motivation needed to develop and study effective prevention methods. Fortunately, the American Heart Association (AHA) released new guidelines designed to help physicians diagnose and treat individuals who are at risk for cardiac arrest. Discover how this new information is helping providers prevent cardiac arrest.
Top Causes of Cardiac Arrest
A common misconception is that cardiac arrest is the same as a heart attack. As the American Heart Association notes, the two are very different. The onset of heart attack symptoms may begin rapidly or last for weeks, and the event is caused by an arterial blockage that restricts blood flow to the heart. Unlike a heart attack, cardiac arrest happens immediately and usually without any warning.
During cardiac arrest, the heart’s pumping motion is interrupted by an electrical malfunction, which restricts blood supply to the brain and body. Individuals experiencing cardiac arrest quickly lose consciousness and their pulse stops. Multiple factors can lead to cardiac arrest, including:
- History of heart attack
- Cardiomyopathy (thickened heart muscle)
- Heart failure
- Arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, such as long Q-T Syndrome and ventricular fibrillation
New Prevention Methods
The AHA estimates that roughly 50 percent of individuals who experience cardiac arrest had no known earlier symptoms. Thanks to diligent researchers, patients now have new options available in the quest for cardiac arrest prevention.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
This battery-powered implant is ideal for individuals at very high risk for cardiac arrest and works by detecting heart rhythm abnormalities through continuous tracking. If a problem is found, an ICD delivers electric stimulation internally to restore regular function.
Following genetic counseling, genetic testing can shed light on which treatments may be best for a patient or whether children are genetically at risk for cardiac arrest. The new guidelines suggest testing is most beneficial for individuals less than 40 years old who have a history of sudden cardiac arrest, near drowning or fainting following exertion, are less than 40 years old and lack structural heart damage.
For people at risk of cardiac arrest, such as those with a history of heart attack, antiarrhythmic medication can be an effective prevention tool when taken as prescribed.
Immediate Treatment Options
As previously mentioned, up to 90 percent of people die from cardiac arrest prior to reaching the hospital. To improve chances of survival, act quickly and calmly. Immediate treatment options for cardiac arrest include:
- CALL 911
- Cardiac arrest can happen at any time, anywhere. Call 911 as soon as you suspect a cardiovascular incident has occured.
- PERFORM CPR
- Though paramedics can perform life-saving CPR, it will take time for them to reach your location during which the brain and organs begin to die from lack of oxygen-rich blood. Start CPR immediately if you’re trained to do so or stay calm while you follow the 911 operator’s instructions.
- USE A PORTABLE DEFIBRILLATOR
- Also called an automated external defibrillator, or AED, portable defibrillators are very easy to use, available without a perscription and can be life-saving in the event of cardiac arrest. With a little planning, you can purchase one to use at home. AEDs are highly recommended for individuals who know they are at increased risk for cardiac arrest.
If you or a loved one would like more information about cardiac arrest prevention, speak to an experienced cardiovascular specialist to explore available options. Contact us at (770) 962-0399 to schedule a consultation or visit us at www.cvgcares.com to learn more about our practice.