Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. It results from an interruption of the electrical signals that control the heart’s ability to pump blood.

When the heart stops, the lack of blood flow can cause brain damage in just minutes. Death or brain damage can occur within four to six minutes.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. In a heart attack, blood flow to part of the heart is blocked. Sometimes a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest, though.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Symptoms include:

  • Collapsing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • No pulse or breathing

Other symptoms could include fatigue, fainting, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, or heart palpitations. However, cardiac arrest often has no warning signs. If you or someone with you is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Diagnosis for Cardiac Arrest

If you’ve survived cardiac arrest, your doctor will do a number of tests to determine its cause. Common diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac imaging, such as echocardiography or chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiography

Treatment for Cardiac Arrest

First response:

  • CPR, used to treat sudden cardiac arrest
  • Defibrillation

Once at the hospital, your heart team may use these techniques to treat cardiac arrest:

  • Heart surgery, including bypass
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Learn More About Our Heart Services

To meet with a cardiac arrest specialist at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our heart services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.