Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest is an emergency and requires immediate resuscitation. At the same time, the rescue service should be called immediately and the resuscitation measures continued until it arrives

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In cardiac arrest, every minute counts

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What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is the acute loss of blood circulation. Acute cardiac arrest is an emergency. There can only be a chance of survival if resuscitation measures are initiated immediately.

What are the causes?

The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation, a deadly rhythm disturbance of the heart chambers. Due to the high-frequency flickering, regular heart work is no longer possible. The heart muscle can no longer contract sufficiently (contraction of the heart chambers), which means that blood can no longer be ejected into the large circulatory system and the pulmonary circulation.

Ventricular fibrillation is usually the result of an acute obstruction or a critical circulatory disorder in a coronary artery such as a heart attack, but it can also occur in certain hereditary heart diseases or even as a side effect of various medications.

Cardiac arrest is less frequent due to sudden failure of the electrical impulse generation in the heart (sinus node arrest) or the conduction of excitation in the electrical conduction system of the heart (total AV block).

An acute cardiac arrest can also be caused by a tear in the wall of the large body artery (aneurysm rupture) resulting in internal bleeding or by an acute pulmonary embolism.

Other possible causes of cardiac arrest include severe cardiac insufficiency, brain diseases (such as a stroke), lung diseases, poisoning and suicide.

Which symptoms are typical?

  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Apnea
  • Wide, unresponsive pupils on both sides
  • Pulselessness
  • pale gray discoloration of the skin

What does the therapy look like?

The most important measures are immediate chest compressions and alerting the emergency doctor. These are the most important first aid measures, see also:

- Revival

If ventricular fibrillation is the most likely cause or can be seen on a monitor ECG, an electric shock (defibrillation) should be carried out. Either as part of the first-aid measures, if a defibrillator (automatic external defibrillator, AED for short) is available, or otherwise by the emergency services.

For example, public defibrillators (AED) are often found in subway stations or in public places or places. The resuscitation measures should be continued until the emergency services take over.

Resuscitation in adults - in a nutshell:


  1. Patient unconscious (no response to speech and shaking), inability to breathe, or abnormal breathing (gasping)
  2. If other helpers are available, have them set off the emergency call (otherwise call 112 yourself) and, if available, have a defibrillator (AED) obtained
  3. Immediate start with 30 chest compressions (speed about two compressions per second, at least 5 cm deep)
  4. Two respiratory donations (provided you have mastered mouth-to-mouth ventilation)
  5. Continue resuscitation at a rate of 30: 2
  6. As soon as the defibrillator is available, it should be used. In the event of a shock, immediately resume resuscitation at a rate of 30: 2 until the patient regains consciousness, breathes normally again or the emergency services arrive.

-> An immediate start of chest compressions is of crucial importance for the patient's chances of survival.

-> Interrupt the chest compressions as briefly and as little as possible! Above all, cardiac massage is important because it is the only way to maintain a circulation and ensure the transport of oxygen to the brain cells through the blood.

-> The patient should lie on a hard surface so that the heart pressure massage is effective.

-> You can't go wrong - except not to press.

Our advisory expert:

Professor Dr. med. Wolfram Delius is a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology. He completed his habilitation at the Medical University Clinic Uppsala, Sweden, and then held an extraordinary professorship for medicine at the Technical University of Munich. The heart specialist worked as chief physician for a long time, most recently for two decades in the cardiology / pulmonology department at the Munich-Bogenhausen Municipal Hospital (academic teaching hospital). He now runs his own practice in Munich.
Professor Delius has been actively involved in advanced training events of the Bavarian Medical Association for years and was awarded the Ernst von Bergmann plaque of the German Medical Association.

Important NOTE:
This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Unfortunately, our experts cannot answer individual questions.

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