Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM, FACEP
Medical Editors: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
On June 25, 2009, paramedics were called to the home of Michael Jackson responding to calls that he wasn't breathing. They found him in cardiac arrest and started CPR. He was transported to UCLA medical center were numerous attempts to restart his heart failed and he was pronounced dead.
Every day, calls come into the 911 emergency dispatch centers across the country with frantic voices crying for help. A person can't be wakened, breathing has stopped, and a pulsecan't be felt. Cardiac arrest, the failure of the heart's electrical conducting system to generate a heart beat, marks the end of life. No matter what the cause, death happens when the heart stops beating.
The heart is an electrical pump. The mechanical pumping action that circulates blood requires an organized electrical system to get the heart muscleto squeeze. There are many reasons for the electrical activity to fail, and it's almost always due to irritable heart muscle cells that, in effect, cause a short circuit.