Is there a difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,079
    Dr. Robert O’Connor, professor & chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia Health System, discusses the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

    Host: Is there a difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

    Robert O'Connor: If a physician says to a patient that they have had a heart attack, it usually means that they have had a myocardial infarction which in plain terms is blockage of an artery that causes muscle death, part of the heart muscle dies due to lack of blood flow. If a lay person says heart attack they often times mean cardiac arrest and they are really two different things. While a myocardial infarction or muscle death can lead to cardiac arrest. It's much easier if you refer the two terms not as a heart attack because there is a lot of confusion around that and the treatment is very different.

    For example, if someone suffers a cardiac arrest you will hear in the media that they have had cardiac arrest but then heart attack would somehow creep into the conversation. So when a physician uses the term it mean something different than the public. I think a lot of that may just have to do with lack of education on our part. The medical community not using the term in the same way as the way of public.

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