Cardiac arrest

A “cardiac arrest” means the heart stops beating. This can happen due to different reasons. One common reason is a blockage in one of the blood vessels around the heart. It can also be caused by abnormal heart rhythms or be part of another illness. Resuscitation can be effective if it is given straight away and there is a reversible cause.

Induced coma and treatment

If you had a cardiac arrest, it is likely that you were put in an “induced” coma. An induced coma means a temporary coma that is brought on by strong anaesthetic medications. An induced coma allows your body to recover and allows certain treatments to be given.

The doctors looking after you will have worked on finding out the cause of your cardiac arrest. They will have started treatment to address it as soon as possible. If one of your heart blood vessels was blocked, you may have had a procedure called a coronary angiogram. This procedure can be used to unblock the artery. A small tube called a stent is placed in the coronary artery to keep it open.

Experiences after cardiac arrest

For the time that your heart stopped there may have been some interruption of blood supply and oxygen to your brain.  Even after a full recovery, it is normal to experience some changes. These may be:

  • personality changes
  • irritability
  • balance issues
  • fatigue
  • mental slowing
  • speech problems

Recovery can take several months. In some cases, cardiac arrest can cause permanent brain injury.

Physical symptoms

Your other organs may have been affected too. This may have left you with changes in your bowel habit, some kidney impairment, or some liver impairment. You may feel tired and worn out. Your doctors will let you know if any specific treatment is needed for these things.

It is also possible that ribs or the sternum can be fractured with chest compressions.  These will take time to heal and may feel uncomfortable for a long time.

Things to do to help with recovery

Having patience and getting the emotional support you need are important. Keep regular contact with your local doctor.

In the long term, these things can help and prevent further heart disease:

  • avoid smoking
  • limit alcohol use
  • a healthy diet
  • managing cholesterol
  • managing blood sugar
  • light exercise (after consultation with your doctor
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Related topics

This topic was reviewed by an intensive care medicine specialist in July 2022.

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