What are the causes of cardiac arrest?

What are the causes of cardiac arrest

Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, died on January 12, 2023. According to TMZ, she suffered a cardiac arrest. Without immediate treatment, cardiac arrest can be fatal in 90% of cases.

[Mis à jour le 13 janvier 2023 à 12h09] Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, died Thursday, January 12, 2023 at the age of 54. According to the specialized media TMZshe was reportedly hospitalized in California following a cardiac arrest.A source close to the victim tells us that it was Lisa Marie’s housekeeper who found her unconscious in her room“, can we read in the article. cardiac arrest corresponds to the cessation of circulation at the level of the heart. Without care, it leads to death in a few minutes. In France, these are 50,000 people die prematurely each year from cardiac arrest, reports the French Federation of Cardiology. What are the first signs ? What are the causes ? How to save a person? What are the chances of survival ?

Definition: what is a cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is stoppage of circulation at the level of the heart. As the heart does not send enough blood to oxygenate the brain, the person loses consciousness and then breathing stops. It is also called cardiorespiratory arrest, cardio-ventilatory arrest or sudden adult death. Absolute emergency, he requires emergency care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Without immediate treatment, more than 90% of cardiac arrests are fatal. 7 times out of 10, they occur in front of a witness, but less than 20% of these witnesses make first aid gestures.

Is it the same as a heart attack?

In everyday language, we often hear both. However, it is not the same thing.

A heart attack” is a non-medical term generally used to refer to myocardial infarction, which is when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted by an obstruction in an artery (blood clot).

Cardiac arrest is a problem of electro-physiological origin: the circulation of the heart stops due in particular to a heart attack, heart failure or heart failure.

What is the cause of cardiac arrest?

The cause of cardiac arrest is electrophysiological: it is a electrical heart rhythm dysfunction. “The most common immediate cause of cardiocirculatory arrest is ventricular fibrillation” explain the French Society of Cardiology. During a cardiac arrest, the heartbeats get out of sync. The heart can no longer perform its role as a pump and can no longer properly irrigate the body’s vital organs. It can be caused by several things:

Diagram of an infarction © maniki – stock.adobe.com
  • A myocardial infarction (clot that blocks an artery in the heart)
  • A heart rhythm disorder: Cardiac arrest is in most cases due to a heart rhythm disorder called ventricular fibrillation. It can also be bradycardia, asystole…
  • Heart defects (cardiomyopathy, etc.)
  • Acute myocarditis
  • Congenital heart disease.
  • A trauma
  • Asphyxiation
  • A drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • an electrocution
  • An intoxication
  • an overdose
  • Acute respiratory failure

What are the first signs of cardiac arrest?

If the cause is a myocardial infarction (the most common cause), cardiac arrest is manifested by relatively specific prodromal symptoms, which occur in the days or hours preceding:

  • A pain in the chest intense and “in a vice”, behind the sternum (sensation of oppression), which appears during effort, during a sports session or during an activity of daily life or when climbing stairs for example can also announce the occurrence of a heart attack.
  • Intermittent pain that may extend to neck, jaw, shoulder, arm, back
  • Shortness of breath on exertion and breathing difficulties that intensify more and more until cardiac arrest
  • loss of consciousness or dizziness
  • Sometimes episodes of nausea, hiccups, sweating
  • Palpitations
  • General discomfort

>> A CARDIAC ARREST CAN ALSO OCCUR BRUTALLY, therefore without warning signs

  • The person loses consciousness and falls
  • She does not react when we talk to her or when we stimulate her.
  • She is not breathing or breathing movements are inefficient, slow, noisy and anarchic (= gasp).


Who is most at risk of cardiac arrest?

People most at risk of cardiac arrest are:

  • People who have already had a heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • People who suffer from heart failure
  • People who have survived a previous cardiopulmonary arrest
  • People who have a family history of cardiopulmonary arrest
  • People who have an abnormally low ejection fraction (proportion of blood ejected from the heart with each beat).

What to do to “save” a victim of cardiac arrest?

Steps in case of cardiac arrest
Steps in case of cardiac arrest © French Federation of Cardiology

Without immediate treatment, more than 90% of cardiac arrests are fatal. Taken care of in time, the heart can start again and cardiac arrest will not be fatal. 1 minute saved, it’s 10% more chance of survival!

As soon as the symptoms appear, do not waste time and above all, place the victim in a safe area, for him as for you:

TO CALL THE 15th (SAMU) to notify emergency services and receive emergency medical treatment.

  • Describe what we saw and the state of the victim: she is unconscious, she is not breathing…
  • Answer the questions you are asked.
  • Give the exact address of where the victim is.
  • Saying what has been done or what is being done: “we extended it, we started cardiac massage”…
  • Do not hang up until the SAMU operator specifies it.

MASSAGE. Start immediately cardiac massage (first aid gestures): 120 compressions per minute, i.e. 2 per second.

  • Lay the victim on their back and kneel against the victim on their side.
  • Position the hands on top of each other, in the middle of the chest, arms straight.
  • Press with all your weight, well above: it is not the arms or the hands that support but the whole body. These are strong pressures: push the hands 5 to 6 cm into the chest and completely relax the chest between each compression.
  • Do the push-ups at a steady pace, 2 per second (120 per minute). If you have been trained, you can perform ventilations (mouth to mouth) at the rate of 2 breaths every 30 compressions.
  • Continue cardiac massage until the defibrillator orders you to stop or until help arrives.

DEFIBRILLATE. If other people are present, ask them to find out: and if a defibrillator is available, you must pick it up as soon as possible. Very easy to use, this device provides voice guidance, step by step, and guarantees risk-free use.

  • Defibrillators are available in several public places: sports centers, shopping malls, town halls, market squares, pharmacies, companies…
  • If we have an automated external defibrillator, we use it immediately.
  • If there is none nearby, we massage without stopping until the arrival of the defibrillator and/or help.

Then, the SAMU takes over and continues resuscitation during transport. The victim is admitted to a resuscitation or intensive care unit in cardiology. The cause of cardiac arrest is sought through several tests (electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, etc.)

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that studies the functioning of the heart by measuring its electrical activity. In the event of cardiac arrest, the ECG shows a flat tracing, which means that there is no more electrical activity in the heart and therefore no more heartbeat.

Several examinations allow you to know your risk of cardiorespiratory arrest:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Stress test

What are the consequences of cardiac arrest?

During ventricular fibrillation, the brain suffers very quickly: it is not supplied with oxygen because the blood no longer circulates. Beyond 5 minutes of heart failure, if nothing is done, the brain damage is irreversible, then it is death. The sequelae after a cardiac arrest largely depend on the cause of the arrest and the time frame for treatment. They mainly concern neurological sequelae and a risk of chronic vegetative states. Traumatic sequelae (broken ribs) are also frequent and depend on the intensity of the resuscitation maneuvers.

What are the chances of survival after cardiac arrest?

You should know that if no resuscitation gesture is performed within eight minutes to restart the heart, the chances of survival are almost zero. The survival rate for cardiac arrest in France is 5% ; it is 4 to 5 times higher in countries where public places are equipped with automated external defibrillators and the population trained in lifesaving gestures. Since May 2007, the law authorizes any citizen to use a defibrillator.

Have your heart checked regularly by his cardiologist

► Respect the treatments prescribed by the doctor against risk factors: diabetes, obesity, cholesterol, high blood pressure…

► Adopt a healthy lifestyle: do not smoke, avoid alcohol, have a balanced diet and practice regular physical activity (after consulting your doctor).

Encourage your family to get tested : in case of family history of heart disease, regular monitoring is required.

► Adopt the trifecta for your heart: 0-5-30. That is to say 0 cigarettes, 5 fruits and vegetables per day and 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Sources: French Federation of Cardiology / French Society of Cardiology.