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CNN.com: What to Do if Someone Is in Cardiac Arrest

CNN.com recently interviewed Christine Albert, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute, and KPCC’s AirTalk recently interviewed Sumeet Chugh, MD, medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center at the Smidt Heart Institute, about cardiac arrest after football player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field Jan. 2.

Cardiac arrest happens when an electrical malfunction in the heart causes it to stop beating, disrupting breathing and restricting blood flow to critical organs. Irregular heart rhythms are the main cause of cardiac arrest, Albert told CNN.com.

“The most common rhythm that you’ll see is something called ventricular fibrillation, which is basically like the heart is like a bag of worms. It’s beating chaotically, and it’s no longer able to effectively pump,” Albert said. “The person collapses because the brain is no longer working, and there’s just a couple of minutes that you have to try to get that rhythm back to a normal rhythm.”

A blunt impact to the chest—like a tackle—at a critical moment during a heartbeat can knock the heart out of rhythm, causing cardiac arrest, Chugh told AirTalk host Larry Mantle.

“The condition is quite rare, simply because the timing we are talking about is 30 milliseconds—it’s a fraction of a heartbeat,” Chugh told Mantle. “So, it really requires this perfect storm. But yes, it’s that unfortunate blow that comes just perfectly timed, which … can lead to electrical chaos, which we call ventricular fibrillation.”

If someone is in cardiac arrest, every second counts. Dial 911 immediately, use an automated external defibrillator if one is nearby, and start CPR.

Click here to read the complete story on CNN.com. Click here to listen to the complete episode of AirTalk.