Monthly Archives: March 2019

What You Need to Know About Agonal Breathing

What are Agonal Respirations or “Last Gasps”?

Gasping, or agonal respiration, is an indicator of cardiac arrest. When these irregular breathing patterns occur, it’s a sign that the victim’s brain is still alive and that you must begin uninterrupted chest compressions or CPR immediately.

If you do so, the person as a much higher chance of surviving. In fact, bystander-initiated CPR has been proven to be a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim’s best chance of survival. Approximately About 90 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) die; however, nearly 45 percent of OHCA victims survived when bystander CPR was administered (American Heart Association).

Often, agonal breathing is seen during cardiac arrest, and in most cases rescuers report observing these so-called “dying breaths” fewer than 10 to 12 times per minute (as opposed to 12-20 inhalations in typical respiration).

Agonal respiration does not provide adequate oxygen to maintain body functions and should not be considered breathing.

Gasping or agonal respirations commonly occur following or during sudden cardiac arrest or stroke. Based on paramedic reports, researchers found that gasping occurred in 56% of patients who suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. They also found that gasping or agonal breathing is likely more common soon after cardiac arrest and is most common in individuals who receive bystander CPR (Science Direct).

Symptoms of Agonal Breaths

Agonal breathing can last for minutes or up to several hours. Someone who is suffering from agonal breathing may appear to be gasping for air, snorting, gurgling, or moaning, or they may make grunting sounds or display myoclonus — the sudden, uncontrollable jerking of muscle groups.

“The gasping associated with agonal breathing is not true breathing, but rather a brainstem reflex. Agonal breathing often occurs because the heart is no longer circulating oxygen-rich blood. In other cases, it may be due to the lungs not bringing in enough oxygen” (Medical News Today).

Causes of Agonal Breathing

In most cases, patients that suddenly stop breathing without warning and exhibit agonal breaths are likely suffering from cardiac arrest. However, respiratory arrest brought on by severe asthma, choking, stroke, or an opioid or narcotic overdose may also cause agonal breathing.

How to Treat Agonal Breathing

If someone is exhibiting symptoms of agonal breathing, resuscitation efforts should begin immediately and 911 should be called.

“In cases where the patient is not breathing or has agonal respirations but still has a pulse, he or she is considered to be in respiratory arrest rather than cardiac arrest. The 2015 CPR guidelines call for lay rescuers to treat both conditions the same: by starting CPR” (Very Well Health).

The Value of Gasping During Out-of-Hospital Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest

In 2017 a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that gasping during CPR was associated with an increased survival rate. The study noted that “These findings underscore the importance of not terminating resuscitation prematurely in gasping patients and the need to routinely recognize, monitor, and record data on gasping in all future cardiac arrest trials and registries.”

What You Can Do to Help Someone Suffering from Agonal Breathing

Learn CPR. Without CPR, agonal breathing brought on by cardiac arrest is fatal. If you know someone who is at an increased risk for a stroke or cardiac arrest, you’ll need to be able to quickly identify the symptoms and then respond with high-quality CPR.

Ready to learn CPR? As an Authorized Training Center, Cardio Partners provides high quality and consistent CPR and AED training courses across the United States. Our courses are offered through the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. For more information about blended or traditional CPR and First Aid training, call our team at 866-349-4362 or email us at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

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5 Things You Need to Do After a Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest

Tips for Maintaining Whole-Body Wellness After Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Regular readers of this blog know that heart attacks and cardiac arrest are not the same; however, some may be surprised to learn that a heart attack may lead to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA.) In what seems like a cruel twist of fate, it’s not at all uncommon for SCA to follow a heart attack. The greatest risk of a post-heart attack SCA is during the first 30 days after a heart attack (Duke Clinical Research Institute). Take heart: in this post, we’ll share a few tips and resources so that you can get back to living your best life and reduce the risk of post heart attack cardiac arrest.

Find a Support Network

If you’re feeling worried and anxious after your cardiac event, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Many heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest survivors experience a host of emotions ranging from joyful gratitude to fear and trepidation. Life after a heart attack or SCA can be overwhelming, and for some may even feel uncertain.

It’s very common for heart attack and SCA survivors to experience anger, depression, denial, and anxiety. These feelings typically last for two to six months,and it’s important to recognize them and deal with them by seeking help. Your doctor should be able to recommend a mental health specialist who specializes in cardiac recovery. Let your loved ones know how you’re feeling, too. They can’t fully support you if they don’t know how you’re feeling.

For the first few weeks, it may be comforting to have someone nearby to help and support you. If you don’t have friends or loved ones who can stay with you, ask your care team to recommend resources near you. In the meantime, here are a few online resources to get you started:

Set Goals for Healthy Living

To minimize the risk of SCA or of having another heart attack — and to maximize your chances for a full recovery — it’s critically important to begin a regular fitness and activity routine as soon as possible. Be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise regime!

A few months ago we wrote a blog entitled 5 Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, and while the strategies covered in the post are great for preventing a heart attack, they apply equally well to life after a cardiac event:

  • Eat a diet low in animal proteins, high in fiber, and rich with fruits vegetables.
  • If you’re overweight or obese, make a commitment to lose weight.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Develop a physician-approved exercise program.
  • Get plenty of rest.

“A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other controllable risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and overweight. Choose nutrient-rich foods — which have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories — over nutrient-poor foods. Choose a diet that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats” (American Heart Association).

Find a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

The Cleveland Clinic writes, “Patients who join cardiac rehabilitation programs have a faster and safer recovery and better outcomes after a heart attack. It is important to follow your cardiac rehabilitation team’s instructions for activity. Everyone recovers at a different pace. This may be related to your activity level before your heart attack or the amount of damage to your heart muscle. It may take many months to develop the optimal exercise program.”

By joining an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program, not only are you committing to your recovery and living a full life after your cardiac event, but you’ll be doing so with a community of survivors. Many rehab programs are covered by insurance.

Take it Slow

Remember, recovery’s not a race! Your heart, mind, and body will need time to heal. Start by walking and slowly and gradually increase your pace. You should have slightly increased breathing, but you should be able to carry on a conversation. If you’re short of breath, slow down! If you’re walking outside, walk with a partner and stick close to home.

Once you’ve build your resilience back up by walking, choose an activity that you enjoy such as biking, swimming, or water aerobics and work it into your daily routine. Of course, if you are experiencing excessive shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, dizziness, or chronic fatigue, stop exercising and call your doctor!

Invest in an AED

You’re a survivor, invest in your future. Contact Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362 to learn more about new or recertified AEDs for home use. We also welcome your emails; you can reach us at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

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