When we hear reports telling about heart attack and cardiac arrest, we can’t help but wonder if they are similar or different. Even the doctors use these two terms interchangeably but they are actually two different things.
A heart attack (myocardial infarction) happens when a coronary artery or one of the arteries that provides blood to the heart muscle has been blocked suddenly. This sudden occurrence hinders a portion f the heart muscle of the important blood muscle and so it dies. Thus, a heart attack is the death of a part of the heart muscle and is often caused by the rupture of a plaque in the artery.
Plaque rupture can generate several clinical conditions which include unstable angina and heart attack. These are accumulated together and put under the name of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). All types of ACS are considered medical emergencies and should be treated with medications, angioplasty, stenting and surgery to restore the normal blood flow back to the blocked artery. If the blood flow can be restored within a few hours, the permanent damage to the heart muscle can be diminished.
Meanwhile, a cardiac arrest occurs when there is a sudden heart arrhythmia or ventricular fibrillation. In ventricular fibrillation, the electrical signals within the heart suddenly become disorderly and the heart suddenly stops beating. The most common outcome—and the direst—is the victim’s sudden death.
Cardiac arrest treatment entails immediate CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This supports the victim’s circulation and as soon as possible, a large electrical shock to the heart using defibrillator should also be performed. The shock should be able to bring order to the chaotic signals and send the heart beating again. Death occurs if an expert help is not available so there’s nobody to perform the much needed CPR.
Usually, people who have underlying heart diseases, history of heart attack or any condition producing heart failure are the ones falls victim of cardiac arrest. Other causes may be inherited heart abnormalities and use of illegal drugs most especially cocaine.
Patients who survived cardiac arrest or heart attack should consider implantable cardiac defibrillator. It is a device that automatically resuscitates people even when expert help is not around.