Cardiac Arrest Management

Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning and is NOT the same as a heart attack. The care team at Lehigh Valley Health Network is skilled at rapid and effective interventions if you are suffering from cardiac arrest.

While some heart attacks can cause sudden cardiac arrest, heart attacks and cardiac arrest are not the same. Cardiac arrest is frequently caused by abnormal heart rhythm.

Cardiac arrest is a sudden loss of blood flow resulting from the failure of the heart to pump. The heart will stop beating when the electrical system of the heart suddenly stops or the body’s circulatory system fails.

Signs include:

  • Sudden collapse
  • No pulse
  • No breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

If not treated promptly sudden cardiac arrest can lead to death. 

Life-saving measures include:

  • Calling 911
  • Performing CPR (hands-only CPR is effective too)
  • Using a portable automated external defibrillator (AED) to restore circulation

Once a normal rhythm has been restored and the patient is transported to Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, a cardiac arrest patient may be treated with therapeutic hypothermia, also known as Arctic Sun®. Our experience at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute finds about 54 percent of patients who receive induced hypothermia following cardiac arrest return home to live full lives. Without body-cooling treatment, that number is less than 5 percent.

July 21st, a quick-thinking bystander, heroic efforts by Emmaus, PA first responders and leading edge care from Lehigh Valley Heart Institute all conspired to help Patrick Barry, a resident of Macungie, PA survive a "widowmaker" heart attack. He was 52 an

Therapeutic hypothermia (Arctic Sun)

Arctic Sun is a medical treatment that lowers body temperature to prevent brain swelling and reduce or eliminate the potential for brain damage. The temperature of the patient is lowered by about 7 degrees. Every one degree drop reduces the amount of oxygen needed by the brain by 6 percent. Cooling helps the brain heal and reset.

During the treatment, pads with cool water running through them are placed on the patient’s chest and thighs. If you need therapeutic hypothermia, you will be sedated to ensure you are comfortable and to prevent shivering. A team of caregivers, including neurologists, cardiologists, critical care specialists and nurses, constantly monitor a patient receiving therapeutic hypothermia for signs of pneumonia, internal bleeding and seizures.