Difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: In the scope of medical emergencies, some events strike extra fear into our hearts, the most precious muscle in our body, such as a sudden stoppage of this vital organ. Many people have heard chilling stories of a person clutching their chest and gasping for breath, fighting to keep themselves alive. This panic and confusion push us to dig deeper into cardiac crises.

Kuwait Times delved into the differences between two commonly misinterpreted terms — heart attack and cardiac arrest — by interviewing Pediatric Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist Dr Mohammad Ebrahim at the Chest Diseases Hospital, who is also an Assistant Professor at Kuwait University. Decoding these silent killers can empower us to make informed decisions and save our lives.

Dr Mohammad Ebrahim

Kuwait Times: What is the main difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

Dr Mohammad Ebrahim: A heart attack is an issue with the arteries feeding the heart muscle (pumping problem), while a cardiac arrest is an issue with the electrical system of the heart that may lead to sudden cardiac death.

KT: What are the common signs and symptoms of both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

Dr Ebrahim: The common symptoms and signs of a heart attack are chest pain and shortness of breath. Patients often have specific risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, smoking, etc. Whereas a sudden cardiac arrest causes sudden loss of consciousness, followed by irregular or no breathing, seizure and color change.

KT: Are there specific tests that need to be done to diagnose a heart attack compared to a cardiac arrest?

Dr Ebrahim: Regarding heart attacks, one needs an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, stress test, nuclear test, CT angiography and cardiac catheterization. However, for sudden cardiac arrest survivors, they need to undergo similar tests, in addition to cardiac MRI and genetic testing.

KT: What are the common causes of a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

Dr Ebrahim: Heart attacks happen due to coronary artery disease (a disease in the vessels that feed the heart muscle), where a plaque formation causes narrowing of the vessel lumen. On the other hand, cardiac arrest may be related to coronary artery disease if beyond 40 years of age. However, if the patient is young then they need to be evaluated by an inherited arrhythmia expert to rule out/in genetic cardiac disease that may predispose the patient to cardiac arrest. Often there is family history of other members with cardiac disease in the young individuals.

KT: Do treatment methods and medical care differ for a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

Dr Ebrahim: Absolutely, if there is an established coronary artery disease, then cardiac catheterization and/or cardiac surgery might be required to open up the narrowed vessels and restore normal blood flow into the heart muscles. While for sudden cardiac arrest survivors, depending on the specific cause, medications plus heart denervation surgery (removal of the nerves onto the heart), while insertion of a pacemaker or implantable cardiac defibrillator may be required in more extreme cases.

The post Difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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