What to do when someone faints before you due to cardiac arrest

Termed as syncope in medical lexicon, the temporary loss of consciousness is usually related to insufficient blood flow to the brain. (Representative image)

Reports about people, with no apparent illness symptoms, collapsing all of a sudden and that can eventually turn fatal have become quite common now. Medical experts term it as syncope which is a temporary loss of consciousness, usually related to insufficient blood flow to the brain. A person could lose consciousness and collapse if he/she suffers from problems related to arteries, brain damages, ENT, metabolic issues related to alcoholism or medication or even panic attacks. However, cardiac arrests are the main villain in the cases of deaths as soon as a person collapses.

If it is just an ordinary fainting, the person would regain consciousness after a few minutes. This temporary loss of consciousness is due to insufficient blood flow to the brain’s reticular system. It would last only a few seconds as blood would gush to the brain when the unconscious person is made to lie down.

Problems related to the arteries too could be a major reason for collapsing that is fatal in nature. The pressure variations and the arteries’ incapacity to react to it can cause unconsciousness. Around 30% of people who faints suffer from low blood pressure. Meanwhile, about 20% of people who faint may be suffering from various types of heart ailments. A sudden heart attack must be the reason why they have collapsed.

Two reasons

There are two main reasons for unconsciousness related to heart ailments. The first one is when the blood flow gets obstructed, its course gets altered or stops completely due to the structural damage of the heart. The second reason is when the blood flow to the brain gets disrupted due to uncontrolled increase or decrease in the heart beats or because of unrhythmic heart rates. These two conditions are often interrelated.

The valves or the arteries may be damaged by a variety of conditions leading to narrowing, leaking or improper closing. For instance, when the aortic valve narrows, the blood flow to the brain gets obstructed and the person may faint.

Heart attacks may damage the heart muscles, causing the heart to pump less efficiently. This may also block the blood flow to the brain.

Besides, those who suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, may experience frequent bouts of passing out. The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.

Conditions like pulmonary embolism and pulmonary hypertension that may affect the arteries in the lungs too could result in collapsing.

Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of the heart’s functions which may disrupt the blood flow to the lungs and the brain. It can come suddenly without showing any symptoms and is often fatal. Medical attention has to be given within minutes to activate the heart or give the rescue breath. The blood flow would be stopped when the heart stops beating and oxygen wouldn’t be supplied to the brain. The cells in the brain begin to get damaged within four minutes after the heart has stopped functioning. This is often the reason why the lives of the persons who collapses abruptly cannot be saved.

Know cardiac arrest

It is important to quickly recognize whether the person has fainted due to cardiac arrest, as around 50% of people who suffer cardiac arrest die within just an hour. The first aid or medical attention given during this crucial period may even save their lives. So, it is important to understand whether the patient has suffered a cardiac arrest by checking the pulse and breathing.

The pulse could be checked by placing your fingers on the side of the neck of the patient who must be lying down. It would be helpful if one could learn it by placing their fingers on one’s own neck and checking the pulse. Meanwhile, the movement of the patient’s chest could be observed or try to feel his/ her breath by bringing your ears closer to their nose. If you feel no pulse or breath, then a cardiac arrest could be confirmed.

What to do?

If you witness a person suffer cardiac arrest in front of your eyes, you must realize that he/she may be dying. The patient should be rushed to the nearby hospital as soon as possible. However, the person could even die as soon as he/she collapses. So, it is often a ‘do-or-die’ situation in such cases. An Automated External Defribillator (AED), which is a portable electric device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart, could be attached to the patient. In case an AED isn’t available, the CPR should be initiated along with cardiac massage by applying rhythmic pressure on the patient’s chest to resuscitate.

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