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Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treatment and Drugs

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/22/2010

Do you need information on sudden cardiac arrest treatment? If so, read on to learn about the different treatments and drugs.

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    Patients experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest must receive immediate medical treatment in order to survive. Sudden cardiac arrest treatment will begin with immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, once the patient is revived with CPR, other treatment methods are often done to ensure the patient is stabilized.

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    Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

    CPR allows oxygen-rich blood to flow to the vital organs in the body, providing a vital link that may help to keep the patient alive until more advanced and equipped medical care arrives. If someone does not know how to perform CPR, a 911 operator can often walk them through it until emergency medical services arrive. It is crucial that CPR is started immediately.

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    Defibrillation

    This is a procedure in which a shock is administered with the use of a defibrillator to momentarily stop the chaotic rhythm and the heart. This often helps the normal heart rhythm resume. This device must only be used by those who have been trained to use it. In absolute emergencies, some 911 operators can walk a person through using an AED (automated external defibrillator) device.

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    Drugs

    Once the patient arrives at the emergency room, various anti-arrhythmic drugs are often administered for long-term or emergency treatment of arrhythmias or their potential complications. A medication class referred to as beta-blockers is often administered to patients at risk of going into sudden cardiac arrest. Other possible drugs that are used include calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme, or a drug known as amiodarone. Since these are drugs, they may cause side effects for some patients. For example, an anti-arrhythmic drug may cause the patient's specific arrhythmia to occur more frequently, or cause a new arrhythmia to occur, that is either equal to or worse than the patient's pre-existing condition.

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    Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

    Once a patient is stabilized, implanting an ICD may be recommended. This unit is implanted near the patient's left collarbone and is battery-powered. It has electrode wires, or a single electrode wire, that run to the patient's heart through their veins. This unit will measure the patient's heart rhythm and if it detects the rhythm being too slow, it works as a pacemaker would. It can also reset an abnormal heart rhythm to a normal one by sending out high or low-energy shocks.

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    Coronary Angioplasty

    This procedure is performed to open coronary arteries that are blocked, so that blood flow becomes more freely, which may help to reduce the patient's risk of serious arrhythmia. A mesh, metal stent can be inserted at the same time to keep it open for a long-term period of time, resulting in the blood flow to the heart being restored.

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    Coronary Bypass Surgery

    This procedure can be done as part of sudden cardiac arrest treatment. This is another procedure than can be performed to improve blood flow. This may help to decrease the frequency of racing heartbeats and improve blood supply to the heart.

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    Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation

    This procedure can be performed to block just one abnormal electrical pathway. This will ablate, or destroy, a small spot of heart tissue resulting in an electrical block along the pathway responsible for causing the patient's arrhythmia. This most often stops the patient's arrhythmia.

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    Surgeries

    There are surgeries that can be performed to help treat this condition. A heart transplant can be done for patient's who have experienced sudden cardiac arrest and have severe congestive heart failure. This is not commonly done. Corrective heart surgery can be performed to help reduce fatal arrhythmia risk through improving blood flow and heart rate. Those who have a faulty valve, a congenital heart abnormality, or a cardiomyopathy-related diseased heart muscle may be good candidates.

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    Resources

    MayoClinic.com. (2010). Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treatments and Drugs. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sudden-cardiac-arrest/DS00764/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

    National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2009). What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/scda/scda_whatis.html