Sudden cardiac arrest, or heart attack, is the abrupt cessation of heart function. The immediate administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is essential in helping the patient survive until emergency help arrives. Defibrillation, a technique which imparts an electric shock into the patient's chest, may be used for heart attacks stemming from a certain type of heart rhythm disturbance. In the emergency room, cardiac arrest treatment may involve the administration of drugs to stabilize the heart rate. Once the patient has stabilized, medical intervention may involve a variety of medications as well as cardiac procedures and surgeries.
Following stabilization, a doctor may advise the patient to have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) implanted within the chest. An ICD is a battery-operated device, having electrodes attached which run through the veins to the heart. The role of an ICD is to monitor and correct an abnormal heart rhythm. This cardiac arrest treatment may be more successful in preventing a fatal arrhythmia than medication.
Another treatment option that may be used is a procedure called coronary angioplasty. This technique involves opening up clogged arteries, which may lessen the risk of the occurrence of a serious disturbance in heart rhythm. During angioplasty, a doctor will thread a tube through an artery, typically in the leg, and push it through a clogged artery in the heart. After the artery is unblocked, a device will be implanted that will help the artery to remain open. The goal of this cardiac arrest treatment is to restore the blood supply to the heart.
A more involved treatment procedure that may be used to enhance the heart's blood flow is bypass surgery. This involves sewing arteries or veins at a point past the occluded artery, thus allowing the flow of blood to go around the blocked area. The surgery may not only improve blood flow, but may also lessen the incidence of racing heartbeats.
Radiofrequency catheter ablation is a cardiac arrest treatment used to block the conduction of abnormal electrical impulses in a single pathway. This involves threading a tube through the blood vessels to the inner part of the heart. Once the desired spot is reached, an electrode at the end of the tube is used to destroy a small area of heart tissue, thus forming an electrical block. This block is strategically placed on the electrical pathway that is producing the arrhythmia. In most cases, this procedure prevents further occurrences of the arrhythmia.
In some cases, a surgeon may recommend corrective surgery as part of the cardiac arrest treatment. This may be used to repair a congenital heart defect or a malfunctioning valve. Patients whose condition can't be helped by cardiac surgeries or procedures may be a candidate for a heart transplant.