Long-Term Treatment for Cardiac Arrest

Updated:Sep 10,2014

Doctor And nurse Talking To Patient With LazptopWhile it's estimated that more than 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital, death from sudden cardiac arrest is not inevitable.

Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest may face a variety of complex medical issues known as Post-Cardiac Arrest Syndrome (PCAS):

PCAS-Related Conditions

Brain Injury

  • Can begin hours to days after cardiac arrest.
  • Too much or too little oxygen delivered during initial treatment can affect outcome.
  • Fever, increased blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and seizures can affect severity of brain injury and outcome.
  • Signs include coma, seizures, varying degrees of cognitive dysfunction from memory deficits to persistent vegetative state, movement impairments and brain death.

Heart Dysfunction

  • Can be detected within minutes of return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) with appropriate monitoring.
  • Heart rate, ejection fraction, heart rhythm and BP may be extremely variable after ROSC.
  • Dysfunction is transient and can resolve to normal by 72 hours after arrest.
  • Underlying heart disease that caused the arrest must also be treated.

Systemic Ischemia/Reperfusion Response

  • During arrest, the body goes into severe shock. The internal processes for taking in and removing necessary and harmful blood chemicals is stopped.
  • Lack of oxygen in the blood can cause organ damage or failure and increase susceptibility to infection.

Conditions that cause or are caused by cardiac arrest

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome (acute myocardial infarction, acute coronary occlusion)
  • Arrhythmias
  • Lung conditions (pulmonary embolism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, pneumonia )
  • Hemorrhage caused by trauma
  • Infection (including pneumonia)
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Accidental hypothermia 
All of these conditions must be monitored, treated and managed by the survivor's healthcare team.

The treatment plan for Post-Cardiac Arrest Syndrome varies from patient to patient depending on their level of consciousness and other factors. Likewise, several variables impact the prognosis for cardiac arrest survivors.

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This content was last reviewed on 07/12/2011.

 Cardiac Arrest