With news of the sudden death of 26-year old Indian television actor Karan Paranjpe recently, we are again forced to question the belief that cardiac problems only occur in elderlies. The actor reportedly died of a sudden cardiac arrest and the case wasn’t first of its kind. Last year, Kumar also died of a cardiac arrest at the mere age of 44. Actor Narendra Jha, 55, also died of an arrest last month. So, is the youth really safe from heart problems? Is less age no more a prevention against cardiac problems? Sadly, the answer to both is no.
With youngsters becoming more prone to sudden cardiac arrest, it is advisable that everyone over the age of 30 undergo an annual preventive cardiac check. But what is sudden cardiac arrest? It is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.
Certain tests are performed to determine if a personal is at high risk for cardiac arrest. These include the following:
The electrocardiogram, which records the electrical activity of the heart.
Holter monitoring uses a walkman-size recorder attached to the patient’s chest for one to two days, which continuously records the heart rhythm. After the recorder is removed, the tape is analyzed for signs of arrhythmia.
The event recorder is a pager-sized device that records the electrical activity of the heart over a longer period; here the patient turns on the device whenever he feel his heart is beating too chaotically.
The Echocardiogram measures the pumping ability while identifying other problems that increase the risk of a sudden cardiac arrest.
Electrophysiology study (EPS) identifies rhythm issues and pinpoints areas in the heart that may be the sources of abnormal electrical signals that trigger arrhythmias.
Cardiac catheterisation can help identify any coronary artery disease or structural abnormalities.
Certain blood tests like cardiac enzyme test, electrolyte test, drug test and hormone tests maybe suggested.
Patients diagnosed at risk of sudden cardiac arrest may be advised therapies, which include:
Anti-arrhythmic drugs for emergency, long-term treatment of arrhythmias or potential arrhythmia complications maybe recommended.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) maybe recommended once the patient’s condition stabilises.
An ICD is a battery-powered unit that is implanted near the collarbone. If it detects a cardiac rhythm disturbance like a ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, low or high energy shocks are sent to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.
Coronary angioplasty or a coronary bypass surgery maybe advised to open blocked coronary arteries, if the individual is suffering from coronary artery disease.
Radiofrequency catheter ablation works to block a single abnormal electrical pathway, which is the cause of arrhythmias such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
Corrective heart surgery to deal with a congenital heart deformity, a faulty valve, and diseased heart muscle tissue due to cardiomyopathy reduces the risk of fatal arrhythmias.
Heart transplantation maybe indicated in some people with severe congestive heart failure who have experienced cardiac arrest.
In case of a sudden cardiac arrest, time is precious because the brain is sensitive to the lack of oxygen and blood flow treatment must be instituted within four to six minutes, to avoid permanent brain damage. Cardiac arrest can be reversed using an electrical shock to get the heart back into a regular rhythm.
Communities need to institute public CPR education, use of AEDs, and rapid activation of emergency medical services to help increase the survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest. If the patient survives, the reason for collapse and sudden death will need to be diagnosed. As also, the ABCs of resuscitation will be re-evaluated. Airway, breathing, and circulation (heart beat and blood pressure) will be supported, and admission to an intensive care unit is most likely. The survivors of sudden cardiac arrest are often candidates for implantable cardiac defibrillators.