Heart Attack Resources

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A simple procedure in the emergency room — chilling the body — can help save lives. Induced hypothermia is the idea that cooling a comatose patient after a heart attack prevents brain damage.

What Is Cardiac Arrest?

During a cardiac arrest the heart stops beating effectively and is unable to pump oxygenated blood to the brain and the rest of the organs of the body. It usually occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.

What Are Some Heart Attack Warning Signs?

According to the American Heart Association, some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • What Is Induced Hypothermia?

    Induced hypothermia means cooling the body by reducing the body temperature to below normal. The normal body temperature is between 36° C -37° C (97° F -99° F). Mild to moderate hypothermia is 33° C -34° C (91.4° F –93.2° F).

    How Is Hypothermia Induced?

    Induced hypothermia can be accomplished several ways. Surface cooling methods such as cooling blankets placed under and on top of patients and ice packs placed in the groin and armpit areas are effective in decreasing temperature. Some methods insert catheters into large blood vessels. Other times, cold fluid is inserted into the veins through an I.V.

    To Learn More About Cardiac Care:

    • Click here to read a report about Treatment of Comatose Survivors of Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest with Induced Hypothermia.

    • You can read more about induced hypothermia and cardiac patients at WebMD.

    • The American Heart Association has additional resources on induced hypothermia.