Saturday, June 19

Dealing with sudden cardiac arrest amidst the pandemic – Times of India

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world, the focus has been on prioritizing the prevention and spread of the virus. However, amidst all of this, the need for essential care for other acute and chronic health conditions has taken a backseat. The fear of contracting the virus while stepping out has led to a hesitation on part of the people for seeking medical consultation and intervention for various diseases. Like other diseases, this holds true for heart diseases as well. This is further aggravated by the fact that there are numerous studies which highlight the vulnerability of heart patients to COVID-19. Not only are heart patients more susceptible to getting infected by the virus but COVID-19 can also damage the heart in various ways.

Correlation between SCA and COVID-19

One such common heart disorder is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). A recent study by a group of researchers in Italy have highlighted that COVID-10 may increase the risk for a SCA. An SCA occurs when erratic beating of the heart (known as cardiac arrhythmia) disrupts its pumping ability. In case an SCA is not managed within time, it can lead to sudden cardiac death. Therefore, time is very crucial in case of an SCA and every minute counts for survival. In case a person is experiencing a SCA even amidst the pandemic, he should be rushed to the hospital immediately without the fear of the virus.

The signs of an SCA start to appear about two weeks prior to the attack. The most common symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. The other warning signs are heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats or loss of consciousness (fainting). On experiencing any of these symptoms, one must consult a cardiologist immediately. The risk factors for SCA comprise family history of SCA, smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and obesity and most of these factors make the patient highly vulnerable to the virus.

Dealing with an SCA

SCA, a condition in which the heart abruptly and unpredictably stops beating needs to be managed immediately as it can lead to a loss of life if there is a delay in treatment. Loss of consciousness is one of the major symptoms identified and if there is any change in the way the person speaks or behaves post regaining consciousness, it can indicate an abnormality. The first step towards managing SCA involves administering a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is an emergency procedure that involves chest compressions to manually restore blood circulation and breathing.

Treatment for SCA

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the emergency treatment for an SCA till proper medical aid is made available. Post hospitalisation, the patient may undergo an ICD or implantable cardioverter-defibrillation procedure whereby a small battery-operated power device is implanted on the chest to monitor and detect irregular heartbeats and fix an arrhythmia or abnormal heartbeat through electric shocks. An ICD is a viable treatment option for patients with existing heart conditions like coronary heart disease, heart attacks, enlarged heart muscle and inherited heart defects.

Precautions to be undertaken by SCA patients

Maintaining all the pandemic norms like staying indoors, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is vital for patients who have suffered a SCA. Taking proper medication as prescribed by the cardiologist and constantly being in touch with them through online consultation is mandatory. In certain cases, like that of screening, a visit to the hospital may also be compulsory. For patients with other heart conditions who have not experienced an SCA before, being aware of the symptoms and consulting a doctor immediately on detecting any abnormality is crucial. Overall, one must monitor their heart health and lead a healthy lifestyle coupled with a well-balanced diet and sufficient amount of physical exercise. A lot of patients with pre-existing heart conditions may develop/ have developed complications amidst the ongoing pandemic and it is crucial that they seek medical advice and treatment well within time to prevent their condition from worsening.

The article has been authored by Dr.Viveka Kumar, Principal Director & Chief of Cath Labs (Pan Max) – Cardiac Sciences at Max Hospital

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