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Unexpected cardiovascular collapse and death most often result from ventricular fibrillation in pts with atherosclerotic coronary artery disease or underlying structural heart conditions. The most common etiologies are listed in Table 11-1. Arrhythmic causes may be provoked by electrolyte disorders (especially hypokalemia), hypoxemia, acidosis, or massive sympathetic discharge, as may occur in CNS injury. Immediate institution of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) followed by advanced life support measures (see below) is mandatory. Without institution of CPR within 4–6 min, ventricular fibrillation or asystole is usually fatal.

TABLE 11-1Cardiac Arrest and Sudden Cardiac Death


Basic life support (BLS) must commence immediately (Fig. 11-1):


Major steps in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A. Begin cardiac compressions at 100−120 compressions/min. B. Confirm that victim has an open airway. C. Trained rescuers begin ventilation if advanced life support equipment is not available (pocket mask preferred if available). (Modified from J Henderson: Emergency Medical Guide, 4th ed. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1978.)

  1. Phone emergency line (e.g., 911 in the United States); retrieve automated external defibrillator (AED) if available.

  2. If respiratory stridor is present, assess for aspiration of a foreign body and perform Heimlich maneuver.

  3. Perform chest compressions (depressing sternum 5 cm) at rate of 100−120 per min without interruption. A second rescuer should attach and utilize AED.

  4. If second rescuer is present and trained, tilt pt’s head backward, lift chin, and begin rescue breathing (pocket mask is preferable to mouth-to-mouth respiration to prevent transmission of infection), while chest compressions continue. The lungs should be inflated twice in rapid succession for every 30 chest compressions. For untrained lay rescuers, chest compression only, without ventilation, is recommended until advanced life support capability arrives.

  5. As soon as resuscitation equipment is available, begin advanced life support with continued chest compressions and ventilation. Although performed as simultaneously as possible, defibrillation (150–200 J biphasic) takes highest priority (Fig. 11-2), followed by establishment of IV access and insertion of an advanced airway (endotracheal tube or supraglottic) or bag-valve-mask device ...

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