Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj died after a cardiac arrest late Tuesday. She was 67 years old. In 2016, the veteran politician suffered kidney failure — patients with end-stage renal failure are ten times more likely to die from a cardiac event than the general population.
Swaraj had a successful kidney transplant in December 2016. Though complete details of what happened to Swaraj are yet to emerge, PTI reported that at around 9.30 pm last night, she was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where she was immediately taken to the emergency ward. Her complaint: Restlessness.
“A cardiac arrest is the result of a sudden loss of heart function,” said Dr Ayush Pandey, a medical practitioner associated with myUpchar.com. “When not treated immediately, it leads to cardiac death. In fact, many people confuse cardiac arrest with a heart attack. They are not the same,” he added.
In a cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood to the rest of the body. As such, the symptoms are quite pronounced and develop quickly. They may include sudden breathlessness, absent pulse, loss of consciousness or pale or cool skin. In some cases, the patient may even collapse. By contrast, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Heart attacks may trigger a cardiac arrest, but they are not the same thing.
Research shows that people with kidney problems are more likely to have a sudden cardiac event than a prolonged heart disease. In 'Cardiovascular morbidity and mortality after kidney transplantation', published in the peer-reviewed journal Transplant International, researchers Sokratis Stoumpos, Alan G Jardine and Patrick B Mark wrote: “Presumed arrhythmic, cardiac death rather than myocardial infarction (MI) is the predominant mode of CV mortality (in patients with end stage renal disease).”
In a healthy person, a tiny bundle of cells in the heart works like a spark plug. It sends out an electrical signal which tells the heart to beat, and pump blood to the rest of the body. When this electrical system doesn’t work properly, it leads to erratic, fast or slow heart rate, or arrhythmia. Typically, doctors use an electrocardiogram to pick up on this. But in a cardiac arrest, death usually occurs within minutes, making this difficult to study.
“An arrhythmia or abnormality in the heartbeat can trigger the electrical system of the heart leading to cardiac arrest,” Dr Pandey explained. “Arrhythmias occur when the nodes which carry electric currents to the heart are blocked. In some cases, this is only for a fraction of a second and is harmless. When it is pronounced, it can cause a fatal cardiac arrest. The most common form of arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation, where impulses are rapid and cause ventricles to quiver instead of pumping blood. Cardiac arrest is unlikely to happen to a healthy heart in a healthy body. Though it can arise from an external trigger like a shock, use of drugs, trauma or previously existing heart conditions,” he said.
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Updated Date: Aug 09, 2019 15:33:33 IST