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Cardiac Arrest Vs. Heart Attack

Cardiac Arrest Vs. Heart Attack

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Michael Jackson: Cardiac Arrest Vs.

Heart AttackThursday June 25, 2009In what has become a bad day for celebrities, Michael Jackson died late this afternoon after suffering from what news reports indicate was a "cardiac arrest." Unfortunately, there is always a lot of confusion at such times as to what, exactly, a cardiac arrest is.

Is it the same thing as a heart attack? Actually, no.

Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are two different things.

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when a coronary artery (one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle) becomes suddenly blocked.

The sudden blockage robs a portion of the heart muscle of it vital blood supply, and the muscle dies.

So a heart attack is the death of a part of the heart muscle.

A cardiac arrest, in contrast, is caused by a sudden heart arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation.

In ventricular fibrillation, the electrical signals within the heart suddenly become completely chaotic.

Because these electrical signals control the timing and the organization of the heartbeat, when those signals degenerate to total chaos, the heart suddenly stops beating.

That is, it goes into "cardiac arrest." The most common outcome of a cardiac arrest is sudden death.

The treatment for a cardiac arrest is to begin immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to support the victim's circulation, and, as soon as possible, to deliver a large electrical shock to the heart with a device called a "defibrillator." The large shock allows the heart's electrical signal to re-organize itself, and the heart starts beating again.

Unfortunately, because death occurs within a few minutes of cardiac arrest unless expert help is available, the large majority of individuals who suffer cardiac arrest are not successfully resuscitated.

Cardiac arrest tends to be much more common on people who have various types of underlying heart disease - most commonly, a prior heart attack, or any condition that produces heart failure.

Indeed, many patients who have had either a heart attack or heart failure ought to be considered for insertion of implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a device that automatically resuscitates people who suffer cardiac arrests.

Other causes of cardiac arrest include certain inherited heart abnormalities that tend to increase the risk of ventricular fibrillation (the most common of these being hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), and the use of various illicit drugs (especially cocaine).

It is not clear at this early time from news reports what might have caused Michael Jackson's cardiac arrest - or even whether cardiac arrest has been definitely confirmed as his cause of death.Comments (0)See All PostsPrevCommentsNo comments yet.

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