How is Cardiac Arrest Treated?

The critical step in treatment for a person who has suffered cardiac arrest is to keep oxygenated blood flowing through the victim with CPR until the heart can be restarted with external defibrillation. Once the person is inside the ambulance, however, more sophisticated advanced care can be implemented, usually in concert with hospital personnel. The patient can be monitored by electrocardiogram, which records the electrical activity of the heart and the heart beat so that specific treatments are administered appropriately and as needed. Similar efforts are continued at the emergency department until a regular heart beat is restored and maintained. 

Following restoration of the heart beat, the goal of treatment is to identify the cause of the arrest and administer the appropriate therapies. For example, when the cause is coronary artery disease, the treatment is usually based on findings of cardiac catheterization, a technique that allows doctors to see the coronary arteries on a fluoroscope and identify and relieve areas of blockage. Coronary artery bypass surgery may be indicated in cases of multiple-vessel disease or diffuse areas of blockage.


When the problem is a rhythm disturbance caused by pacing or electrical transmission abnormalities in the heart muscle, the patient may receive an artificial pacemaker or implantable cardioverter, which works like a defibrillator to sense and respond to conditions that favor another cardiac arrest. Treatment for non-cardiac causes of cardiac arrest vary considerably, depending on the patient’s specific health problem. 

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