Many people get confused between a heart attack and cardiac arrests. But the treatment to both these conditions is different from each other.
Heart attack and cardiac arrest are terms that signify a heart crisis. However, many times, people get confused between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest. While both are medical emergencies related to heart, they are dealt with differently.
What to do?
Heart attack requires emergency assessment and treatment. Heart-attack sufferers thus fare best when they get to the hospital within one hour after symptoms start. You will usually be admitted to the emergency department/ward or ICU for evaluation. A heart attack is generally suspected by typical clinical presentation or symptoms and is confirmed by carrying out tests such as ECG or electrocardiogram, blood test and 2D-Echocardiogram. The doctor regularly either performs primary angioplasty to open the blocked artery or gives medicine to dissolve the clot obstructing the artery.
- A sudden cardiac arrest cannot be predicted, but it is crucial to know how to respond to such an emergency.
- For every minute a person goes without treatment, their chance of survival decreases by 10 %. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) an emergency procedure that is used to restore blood flow to someone who is having cardiac arrest is the most crucial first step of the effective treatment, believe experts. CPR needs to be continued until electrical cardioversion is performed by an automatic electrical defibrillator, which establishes normal cardiac electrical activity.
- You can thus make the difference between life and death for someone by knowing how to do CPR, which helps maintain blood flow and ventilation for a short period of time in a person experiencing cardiac arrest.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot or deposits of cholesterol called plaques. Such a lack of blood flow to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle.
A heart attack is usually due to rupture of one of the plaques, causing a blood clot to develop at the site of the rupture. The clot may then block the supply of blood running through the coronary artery, triggering a heart attack.
Symptoms can include chest pain; pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, throat, neck, back and abdomen; feeling lightheaded or dizzy; sweating; shortness of breath; nausea or vomiting; an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack); coughing or wheezing.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not has diagnosed heart disease. It occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.
During cardiac arrest, either the heart is not beating at all our heart is beating so fast that there is no effective contraction of the cardiac chamber. In both the cases as heart contraction are either absent or ineffective, blood does not go the vital organs. Once the blood does not go to the brain, the patient falls unconscious, and the breathing stops. Cardiac arrest is diagnosed by absence of consciousness, absence of breathing and absence of a pulse. One of the main reasons for cardiac arrest is a heart attack. Not every person who suffers from a heart attack will have a cardiac arrest. But almost one-fourth of a patient suffering from a heart attack may develop sudden cardiac arrest. It is because of electrical instability in the heart immediately after a heart attack.
A weak heart due to a previous heart attack and resultant scar tissue is another major reason for cardiac arrest. In these cases, cardiac arrest can be prevented by prior AICD (Automatic implantable cardioverter and defibrillator) implantation. AICD is a device which detects cardiac arrest and delivers therapy within a few seconds.
An estimated 700,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest, representing 10% of all deaths in India. When considering the chance of survival for a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, time-to-treatment is critical. Brain damage is likely if cardiac arrest lasts for more than 5 minutes, and death is likely if cardiac arrest lasts for more than 10 minutes. Thus, first aid for cardiac arrest should proceed as quickly as possible.
With inputs from Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai
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