A Pharmacologic Review of Cardiac Arrest

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Cardiac arrest is manifested by arrhythmias (ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, pulseless electrical activity, or asystole) resulting in minimal to no forward blood flow to the body's oxygen-dependent tissues. Defibrillation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be initiated immediately as they have been shown to increase return of spontaneous circulation and survival to discharge rates. Cardiac arrest in the surgical patient population has devastating consequences. Data specific to the surgical patient found that 1 in 203 surgical patients experienced cardiac arrest requiring CPR within 30 days after surgery. A subgroup analysis found that 1 in 1,020 plastic surgery patients required CPR in this same time frame. Thirty-day mortality in the general surgery patient population was 72%. The American Heart Association updates the advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) guidelines every 5 years. Their latest publication in 2010 recommended that the resuscitative protocol be transitioned from its basic life support sequence of airway-breathing-chest compressions to chest compressions-airway-breathing. All health care professionals should have an understanding of the clinical presentation and medical management of cardiac arrest. Maintaining biannual basic life support and ACLS certification ensures that health care professionals remain current with American Heart Association guideline recommendations. Guideline-directed management of cardiac arrest should include timely implementation of the ACLS algorithm to maximize patient outcomes.

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