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Author Topic: Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?  (Read 21619 times)

DoctorBeaver

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« on: 28/07/2007 18:09:52 »
It's quite often said about people who suffer massive coronaries that "They were dead before they hit the ground".

How can that be? Surely what happens is that the blood suddenly stops circulating. Why does that cause such sudden death? Would there not be enough oxygen in the body to keep the other organs, including the brain, functioning for a little while?

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #1 on: 28/07/2007 20:29:18 »
It's quite often said about people who suffer massive coronaries that "They were dead before they hit the ground".

How can that be? Surely what happens is that the blood suddenly stops circulating. Why does that cause such sudden death? Would there not be enough oxygen in the body to keep the other organs, including the brain, functioning for a little while?

I suspect it may depend on how long it took them to hit the ground (if they died in their bed, then it is probably true).

I agree that death from heart attacks is never instantaneous.  In fact, the only causes I can imagine that might cause instantaneous death would be some types of bomb blast (where either the body is vaporised, or a massive shock shock wave passes through the body simultaneously disrupting the functioning of most of the major organs of the body).

Karen W.

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #2 on: 11/12/2008 05:54:30 »
My father in law died from a heart attack.. he was sitting up and his face was very distressed mouth open in an awful pain.. frozen like that when I found him upon waking.. the coroner said it was a massive heart attack and that he probably had severe pain and died very quickly! I do not know.. but it look like it hit hard and was over!

RD

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #3 on: 11/12/2008 10:44:40 »
It's quite often said about people who suffer massive coronaries that "They were dead before they hit the ground".

I think this is a figure of speech to mean very rapid: an attempt to console the relatives that the deceased did not suffer and that nothing could have been to revive them.

If someone has a cardiac arrest as a result of blood clot (thrombosis) in a coronary artery and "hit the ground" it may be possible to resuscitate them if they are given artificial breathing and heart massage until clot-busting drug can be applied by a doctor/paramedic , (although the success rate of resuscitation is not as high as depicted on TV drama).

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Treatment to restore blood flow in the blocked coronary artery
The part of the heart muscle starved of blood does not die ('infarct') immediately. If blood flow is restored within a few hours, much of the heart muscle that would have been damaged will survive. This is why an MI is a medical emergency, and treatment is given urgently. The quicker the blood flow is restored, the better the outlook. There are two treatments that can be done to restore blood flow back through the blocked artery.

Emergency angioplasty is, ideally, the best treatment if it is available and can be done within a few hours of symptoms starting. In this procedure a tiny wire with a balloon at the end is put into a large artery in the groin or arm. It is then passed up to the heart and into the blocked section of a coronary artery using special x-ray guidance. The balloon is blown up inside the blocked part of the artery to open it wide again. A stent may be left in the widened section of the artery. A stent is like a wire mesh tube which gives support to the artery and helps to keep the artery widened. See leaflet called 'Angioplasty' for details.

An injection of a 'clot busting' drug is an alternative to emergency angioplasty. In reality, this is the more common treatment as it can be given easily and quickly in most situations. Some ambulance crews are trained to give this treatment. Note: the common 'clot buster' drug used in the UK is called streptokinase. If you are given this drug you should not be given it again if you have another MI in the future. This is because antibodies develop to it and it will not work so well a second time. An alternative 'clot buster' drug should be given if you have another MI in the future.

Both the above treatments usually work well to restore blood flow and greatly improve the outlook. The most crucial factor is the quickness in which one or other treatment is given after symptoms have developed.
http://www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/23068792/


As you say different parts of the body die (reach a stage when they cannot be revived) at different rates, e.g. organs can be successfully transplanted hours after they have been "harvested" from the donor. The brain's demand for glucose & oxygen is very high, so when supply is stopped (cardiac arrest) the nerves are the first type of tissue to die. 
« Last Edit: 11/12/2008 10:47:35 by RD »

DoctorBeaver

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #4 on: 11/12/2008 11:49:13 »
So it's a big lie!  :0

RD

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #5 on: 11/12/2008 12:17:09 »
So it's a big lie!  :0

It's about 95% true: the probability of resuscitating someone whose heart has stopped is only about 5% even if every medical technique is available...

Quote
"We are in dire need of additional treatment options for sudden cardiac arrest because there is only a 5 percent to 7 percent survival rate using interventions we now have," said Bozeman, associate professor of emergency medicine.
http://www.bio-medicine.org/biology-news/Clot-busting-drug-helps-revive-cardiac-arrest-patients-3601-1/

On TV dramas about 1/3rd of resuscitations are successful.
« Last Edit: 11/12/2008 12:19:30 by RD »

DoctorBeaver

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Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #6 on: 11/12/2008 12:20:21 »
100% in Tom & Jerry  ;D

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Re: Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #7 on: 04/10/2013 07:32:05 »
I've heard of 2 instances where death was very sudden. First: My mother was dancing with her boss at an office Christmas party. She said he turned away from her and instantly fell face-first to the floor, dead.

The second was my ex step-dad: He was at his sister's after getting out of the hospital for heart-related issues. He told his sister he loved her to which she replied, "Don't you die on me!" She could apparently tell from his tone and/or actions he was having a heart attack. She said he made a struggling noise and was gone.

I had a heart attack myself less than 3 months ago. I'm only 42, but it was a 100% blockage. I laid in bed for 3 hours in agony before seeking treatment. I kept waiting for the pain to go away, and when I realized it wasn't going to, I waited for a break in the pain where I could at least function. I was alert enough to drive myself to the hospital (not smart) and never lost consciousness. Long story short, I had a stent put in and have been OK since. They said the damage to my heart was minimal.

I don't understand how their instances and mine could be so drastically different. ZERO blood flowing through a main artery on my heart for 3 hours and the only symptom was excruciating pain. Deep, hardcore agony.

Just my two pennies.

RD

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Re: Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #8 on: 04/10/2013 08:50:09 »
I had a heart attack myself less than 3 months ago. I'm only 42, but it was a 100% blockage ...

It would depend at what point a coronary artery was "100%" blocked : other branches evidently supplied sufficient blood to your heart muscle to enable you to survive ...

« Last Edit: 04/10/2013 08:55:33 by RD »

chris

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Re: Why do heart attacks kill so suddenly?
« Reply #9 on: 04/10/2013 09:04:48 »
I had a heart attack myself less than 3 months ago. I'm only 42, but it was a 100% blockage. I laid in bed for 3 hours in agony before seeking treatment. I kept waiting for the pain to go away, and when I realized it wasn't going to, I waited for a break in the pain where I could at least function. I was alert enough to drive myself to the hospital (not smart) and never lost consciousness. Long story short, I had a stent put in and have been OK since. They said the damage to my heart was minimal.

I don't understand how their instances and mine could be so drastically different. ZERO blood flowing through a main artery on my heart for 3 hours and the only symptom was excruciating pain. Deep, hardcore agony.

Gosh, that's quite a story; do you have a family history of heart disease?

 

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