Heart Attack v Cardiac Arrest

A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are often misinterpreted as the same, in this article our Training Manager Stewart Simpson lets us know the difference.

A heart attack is a condition caused by a sudden obstruction of the blood supply to the coronary arteries of the heart. The concern with this condition is the heart stopping. A casualty suffering from a heart attack can still be conscious and able to provide you with information regarding how they are feeling. The effects of the heart attack depend on how much of the heart muscle is affected, many casualties make a full recovery.

Recognition of a heart attack

  • A persistent, vice-like central chest pain which may spread to the arms and jaw. Unlike an angina attack the pain does not ease with rest.
  • The casualty may be breathless.
  • Discomfort high in the abdomen which may feel like indigestion.
  • Sudden faintness or dizziness.
  • The casualty may collapse without any warning.
  • Ashen skin and blueness around the lips.
  • A rapid, weak or irregular pulse.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Extreme gasping for air.

Treatment for a heart attack

  • Call 999/112 for emergency help, inform ambulance control that you suspect a heart attack.
  • Make the casualty as comfortable as possible to ease any strain on the heart. A half sitting position with their head and shoulders supported.
  • Assist the casualty to take one 300mg aspirin tablet if it’s available, advise them to chew it slowly.
  • Monitor and record their vital signs until the emergency services arrive.
  • If the casualty becomes unresponsive, open the airway, check for breathing, if the casualty isn’t breathing commence CPR.

Cardiac arrest is a condition where the casualty’s heart has stopped. The most common cause of a cardiac arrest is an abnormal rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation. This abnormal rhythm can occur as a result of any damage to the heart as the result of a heart attack. The only way to treat this condition is with good quality CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator.

Recognition of a cardiac arrest

  • Casualty may collapse without warning.
  • Casualty is unresponsive and not breathing/not breathing normally.

Treatment for a cardiac arrest

  • Call 999/112 for emergency help, inform ambulance control that you suspect a cardiac arrest.
  • Commence CPR.
  • Apply an AED if available.
  • Follow all instructions given by the AED.
  • Continue with the CPR and AED until help arrives.

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