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What is cardiac arrest? The condition that sent LeBron James’ son Bronny to the hospital

Cardiac arrest differs from a heart attack

Kaleigh Werner
New York
Wednesday 26 July 2023 19:52 BST
Lebron James hugs daughter after breaking NBA scoring record

LeBron James’ son Bronny suffered cardiac arrest during his University of Southern California basketball practice and was rushed to the hospital, according to a statement released by the family’s spokesperson on Tuesday. The public statement confirmed Bronny was out of the ICU, stabilised, and in recovery.

Cardiac arrest is “the sudden loss of all heart activity due to an irregular heart rhythm,” and is also referred to as sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death, according to the Mayo Clinic. Cardiac arrest refers to when the heart stops completely, and the body no longer has blood or oxygen flow. If not treated immediately, the condition can lead to death.

The National Institute of Health attributes the cause of cardiac arrest to types of arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats that stop the blood from pumping through to the heart, with the main causes “ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia,” both types of arrhythmias.

If a person has had prior cardiac arrest, heart valve disease, arrhythmias caused by gene defects, congenital heart defects, or coronary heart disease, they are more at risk. Family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, can put an individual at risk too.

A heart attack differs from sudden cardiac arrest, as a heart attack means blood flow to a specific part of the heart is blocked which has the potential to change the “heart’s electrical activity that leads to sudden cardiac arrest,” while sudden cardiac arrest isn’t a blockage, the Mayo Clinic notes. According to the NIH, sudden cardiac arrest typically causes the individual to become unconscious and stops their breathing.

Other symptoms include sudden collapse, no response to shouting or shaking, and no pulse. In certain cases, people may exhibit chest discomfort, weakness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations before they suffer from cardiac arrest. Usually, the condition transpires without warning.

According to M Health Fairview, a person who has a heart attack could be able to recognise their condition and be able to call emergency medical services. However, people undergoing cardiac arrest are typically unable to identify it in time.

“Cardiac arrests are much rarer than heart attacks, but they are much deadlier. There are half as many – roughly 400,000 – reported each year in the US,” the report stated, adding that these instances are often fatal if not treated immediately.

The NIH said: “Cardiac arrests usually occur in people’s homes, where no healthcare provider is present to make a diagnosis.”

When first responders reach the patient, they will use an electrocardiogram, a heart imaging test, which will display ventricular arrhythmia. Additionally, the NIH stated: “Most often, cardiac arrest is diagnosed after it occurs. Healthcare providers do this by ruling out other causes of a person’s collapse.”

Treatments for cardiac arrest include cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). CPR is often necessary, as well as resetting the person’s heart rhythm with an AED.

Certain medications, including beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and surgeries can help treat the condition too, according to the Mayo Clinic, while surgical operations to aid cardiac arrest include “implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass surgery, radiofrequency catheter ablation, and corrective heart surgery”.

To prevent sudden cardiac arrest, the Mayo Clinic recommends establishing a healthy diet, going to the doctor regularly, avoiding tobacco use or smoking, heart disease screenings, and blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring. Furthermore, the clinic suggests being well-versed in CPR if you live with someone who may be at risk of the condition.

A Johns Hopkins Medicine report acknowledges the benefits of exercising regularly in avoiding cardiac arrest. “A number of studies have also shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a sudden heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event,” the organisation noted.

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