Without the heart’s steady pumping action, blood stops flowing to the body’s organs. Unless emergency aid restores the heartbeat and gets the blood moving again within minutes, death will result. People sometimes confuse sudden cardiac arrest with a heart attack, but they are not the same thing.
“As soon as the heart stops, you not only lose consciousness and your brain stem reflexes are all gone, but also the electricity that your brain creates slows down immediately, and within about 2 to 20 seconds it completely flatlines.”
The heart is a powerful organ Of course, at the end of life, everyone’s heart stops beating. However, sometimes—due to injury, damage, or disease— the heart stops pumping blood normally and needs a restart to get it back on track.
You may have the feeling that your heart stops beating for a moment, and then starts again with a “thump” or a “bang”. Usually this feeling is caused by an extra beat (premature beat or extrasystole) that happens earlier than the next normal beat, and results in a pause until the next normal beat comes through.
Now UBC researchers have evidence that some people may still be able to hear while in an unresponsive state at the end of their life. This research, published recently in Scientific Reports, is the first to investigate hearing in humans when they are close to death.
What are the signs and symptoms of SCA? For most people, the first sign of SCA is fainting or a loss of consciousness, which happens when the heart stops beating. Breathing may also stop at this time. Some people may experience dizziness or lightheadedness just before they faint.
As the last days of life approach, you may see the following signs and symptoms: Breathing may slow, sometimes with very long pauses between breaths. Noisy breathing, with congestion and gurgling or rattling sounds as the person becomes unable to clear fluids from the throat.
Hallucinations. It is not unusual for a person who is dying to experience some hallucinations or distorted visions. Although this may seem concerning, a person caring for a dying loved one should not be alarmed.
The dying person will feel weak and sleep a lot. When death is very near, you might notice some physical changes such as changes in breathing, loss of bladder and bowel control and unconsciousness. It can be emotionally very difficult to watch someone go through these physical changes.
Agonal breathing can occur when someone has gone into cardiac arrest. Unlike a heart attack — which happens when one or more arteries narrow and stop blood from reaching the heart muscle — cardiac arrest is an electrical problem.
When the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, do not pump at the correct time or are out of sync, the condition is called ventricular dyssynchrony. There are three main types of ventricular dyssynchrony: Atrioventricular dyssynchrony – affecting the contraction between the atrium and ventricle.
The immediate cause of most sudden cardiac arrests is an abnormal heart rhythm. The heart’s electrical activity becomes chaotic, and it can’t pump blood to the rest of the body. Conditions that can trigger sudden cardiac arrest include: Coronary artery disease.
Most of the time, there’s no reason to worry. But sometimes palpitations can be signs of trouble. Many say a palpitation feels like a heaviness in the chest, head, or even the neck. Sometimes there’s a flip-flopping in the chest or the throat, or the heart may stop or skip for a brief second.
During cardiac arrest, unconsciousness will occur rapidly once the heart stops beating, typically within 20 seconds. Deprived of the oxygen and sugars it needs to function, the brain will be unable to deliver the electrical signals needed to sustain organ function, including breathing.
Don’t worry, your heart can ‘t actually explode. However, several things can make you feel like your heart’s about to explode. Some conditions can even cause a wall of your heart to rupture, though this is very rare.