Heartbeat rhythm is controlled by the internal electrical system. When that electrical system is disrupted, it causes an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow or to stop beating altogether.
Cardiac arrest, or cardiac death, describes the immediate, unexpected and sudden loss of heart function. It can occur in people with or without a previously diagnosed heart condition. Response time is critical, with the death of all other brain and bodily functions occurring in just four to six minutes following cardiac death.
The chances of survival are reduced by seven to ten percent for every minute that passes without defibrillation, which is the process of sending an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat and reverse cardiac arrest. After ten minutes, survival is unlikely, as approximately 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital.
The warning signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest occur almost instantaneously, with little warning. They are drastic and usually include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- No pulse.
- No blood pressure.
- No breathing.