Asked by cliodhna27 to Enda, Jean, Kate, Kev, Tim on 15 Nov 2012.
Keywords: heart, human body
Yes it can. In a healthy individual this is more likely to happen while we sleep as our hearts do not need to beat as fast and they slow from 60-70 beats per minute down as far as thirty. It is possible that the heart may not beat for a few seconds, perhaps 3-4, when the heart rate is this low. But any more than 5 seconds is probably not good! It probably means you have a form of disorder in which your hear beats irregularly as in the case of arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation which is one of the most common. There has unfortunately been cases where people have been pronounced dead and wake up in a morgue! This is pretty rare though..thank god!
Great answer from Kevin about it happening naturally, I didn’t know some of that.
The biggest problem with the heart stopping is that if the brain is deprived of oxygen for too long brain damage can result.
If your heart stops properly is referred to asystole by medical personel and that’s what we regular people call flatlining. It’s very very hard to fix. In a study in Sweden 10% of patients made it to hospital but only 2% were discharged. It’s not good. It can happen due to pacemaker failure and that can be fixed. If it’s due to choking (a cafe coronary) or something like that you need to fix the cause first before you try to restart the heart.
That thing we see on tv where someone flatlines and then is shocked is actually wrong. You use the paddles when the heart starts to spasm and isn’t beating properly. The shock administered resets the heart’s electrical signals making it beat normally again (hopefully).
During bypass surgery (a way of relinking your blood vessels to avoid a blockage that has happened, just like a bypass for traffic!), you are put on bypass which is were a machine acts as your heart while the surgery is taking place. The heart will not be beating and no blood will be flowing to it. After the surgery you are taken off bypass (the heart machine) and then your heart is restarted by electrical shock.
The heart rate can be artificially reduced to below detectable levels so that there is essentially no heart beat but the person is still alive using certain chemicals.
Great answers by Kevin and Jean. I just wanted to add a quick note about something that you might have heard about earlier this year, when Fabrice Muamba, a footballer for Bolton Wanderers suffered cardiac arrest during a Premier League match. Amazingly, although his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes, he has since made a full recovery mainly due to the outstanding care he received on the pitch immediately after collapsing.
If you are interested in reading more about this, I would recommend this brilliant article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/mar/25/muamba-collapse-minute-by-minute) which goes into a lot of detail about what happened. It’s actually a really emotional story with a happy ending thanks to the remarkable work by the pitchside medical assistants, St. John’s ambulance staff and the London Chest Hospital specialists.
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