What Is The Difference Between A Cardiac Arrest And A Heart Attack?

Dr. Gordon Ewy answers the question: 'Cardiac Arrest, Heart Attack Difference?'

ByABC News
November 7, 2008, 1:27 PM

— -- Question: What is the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack?

Answer: There's an important difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest is a sudden collapse in an individual who is non-responsive, who has abnormal breathing. Abnormal breathing is either agonal respiration, or gasping, or not breathing at all. In that situation, the most important thing is to call 9-1-1, and start doing continuous chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

A heart attack is when the arteries supplying the heart get blocked up. Even though the heart is full of blood at all times, and pumps a hundred-thousand times each day, it doesn't get any of the blood it needs from the inside.

But the first branches off of the aorta, which is the first big vessel off of the heart, the first branches off of there are coronary arteries, and they sit on top of the heart like a crown; they're called coronary arteries. And if you block one of those, that means that that heart, in that area, doesn't get enough blood -- and that causes a 'myocardial infarction,' which is the technical term for a heart attack. A heart attack is quite different from a cardiac arrest.

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