Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac Arrest

November 18, 2022

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Urgent help can increase the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest. Read on to learn how to save a life.

Key Takeaways

  • A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating.
  • It is a medical emergency that can lead to death.
  • With urgent medical care to restart the heart, survival is possible.
  • Cardiac arrest treatment steps are: Call the medical emergency lines immediately, start chest compressions and use a defibrillator (AED) if available.

The heart is one of the most important muscles in the human body, as it is responsible for pumping blood all around your body. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating, which is why it is a medical emergency that can lead to death.

What happens during cardiac arrest?

When a cardiac arrest happens, this means the heart has stopped beating, and the brain and other vital organs are starved of oxygen. The victim becomes unconscious and either stops breathing or does not breathe normally.

In such situations, every minute counts, as, without chest compressions and the use of a defibrillator (AED), the victim will not survive.

However, a cardiac arrest is not a death sentence, as there is still a chance of survival if the victim gets appropriate help. If you come across anyone in this situation, call 767 or 112 immediately. The call operator will talk you through what to do. Any attempt at resuscitation is better than no attempt.


What is the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack?

People often use these terms interchangeably, but they have different meanings. A cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. The symptoms and management are also different:

A person experiencing a heart attack will usually be alert, breathing, and complaining of chest pain or other symptoms.

A person having a cardiac arrest will not be conscious or breathing normally. They need immediate help by calling 767 or 112, starting chest compressions, and using a defibrillator (AED).

A heart attack can sometimes deteriorate to cause cardiac arrest. However, urgent response within 10 minutes of chest pain and/or other warning signs of a heart attack starting may prevent a cardiac arrest in a person experiencing a heart attack.

What causes cardiac arrest?

Your heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of its pumping. A cardiac arrest is usually caused by an electrical malfunction in your heart’s electrical system that causes your heart to stop pumping. Certain heart conditions and events can lead to cardiac arrest if they cause a life-threatening arrhythmia (heart rhythm problem). Although heart disease is a common cause of many cardiac arrests, it may also be caused by trauma, respiratory (breathing) problems, drowning, electrocution, or allergic reactions. Sometimes there’s no identifiable cause of a cardiac arrest.

How common is cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest can happen to anyone. Most cardiac arrests that occur outside of hospitals occur in people’s homes, but a cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, at any time.

What are the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest happens suddenly and rapidly. It often occurs with no warning. The person in cardiac arrest will:

  • Collapse and fall to the ground
  • Have no pulse
  • Not breathe or breathe abnormally (gasp for air)
  • Lose consciousness (not rousable, not aware of their surroundings, and not responsive to talk or touch).

What do you do if someone has a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If a person has a cardiac arrest, they will not be conscious or breathing normally. They need your immediate help by calling 767 or 112, starting chest compressions, and using a defibrillator (AED) if available. Every minute counts when a person is in cardiac arrest. You don’t have to be a trained paramedic to help save a life. Any bystander (even with no training) can improve the likelihood of a cardiac arrest patient surviving by taking three key steps.


1. Call Call 767 or 112. Request an ambulance.
2. Push Compressions-Only CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.
3. Shock Use an AED if available. Provide rapid defibrillation. Anyone can use a defibrillator, as the device gives voice instructions to tell you what to do.


What is CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)?

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a combination of mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and chest compressions. CPR helps to keep blood and oxygen circulating to the brain of a person whose heart has stopped beating until the heart can be restarted. CPR alone does not restore a normal heart rhythm. Compressions-Only CPR (COCPR) is CPR without rescue breaths (also known as ‘hands-only CPR’). Both types of CPR double the patient’s survival rates.


What is a defibrillator (AED or Automated External Defibrillator)?

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that diagnoses life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms that can cause cardiac arrest. An AED might be able to treat these abnormal heart rhythms by giving an electric shock to try to ‘restart’ the heart to its normal rhythm. This is known as defibrillation. An automated external defibrillator (AED) will only give a shock if it is necessary. You cannot do any harm by using an automated external defibrillator (AED) on someone who is unconscious.


Life after cardiac arrest

After a cardiac arrest, your doctor will try to discover its cause. Your doctor will also discuss treatment options with you to reduce your risk of having another cardiac arrest.

Life after a cardiac arrest will depend on:

  • If the survivor had brain damage and how much
  • Time between collapse and the start of CPR/defibrillation
  • Quality of CPR/defibrillation
  • When brain activity restarted after the cardiac arrest

There are people who have survived a cardiac arrest and gone on to live a healthy, fulfilling life because of the immediate action taken by a bystander calling 767 or 112, starting chest compressions, and using a defibrillator (AED).

Medical Response & Ambulance

  • Call Lagos State Emergency Management Agency: 767/112
  • Call Emergency Response Agency toll-free: 0 8000 2255 372
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Lekki, Lagos State

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