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What you must know about Traumatic Cardiac Arrest

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What you must know about Traumatic Cardiac Arrest

Cardiology | by Dr. Sabyasachi Pal | Published on 28/12/2022


Cardiac arrest, a term that is often used as synonymous with a heart attack. Though both are critical medical conditions that affect the normal functioning of the heart, the difference lies in what triggers the attack. Most of the population, especially the older ones are at a high risk of heart disease which can significantly degrade the quality of life.

This blog contains information about the causes of traumatic cardiac arrest and how you can help your closed ones in case of a cardiac arrest. Also, it is important to be vigilant and respond quickly if someone around you is suffering from cardiac arrest.

What is traumatic cardiac arrest (TCA)?

Traumatic cardiac arrest is a medical condition where the heart ceases to beat due a physical trauma. TCA is a medical emergency which usually results in death without proper medical care. And even with advanced medical care, the chances of complications are prominent. People with traumatic cardiac arrest mostly exhibit low blood pressure, sweating, slow breathing, and experience pulseless electrical activity (PEA).

What Are The Main Causes of Traumatic Cardiac Arrest?

While traumatic cardiac arrests result from trauma or injury to the individual, one of the most common causes is hypovolemia. Hypovolemia occurs when the body loses fluid like water, blood or water. Since fluids are essential in keeping your organs functioning, insufficient fluid can cause weakness, fatigue and dizziness. Additionally, traumatic cardiac arrest causes include the following -

  • Hypoxia
  • Tension Pneumothorax
  • Cardiac Tamponade
  • Hypovolemia

What is Hypovolemia?

It is one of the most common causes of traumatic cardiac arrest. Hypervolemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid in the body. A low concentration of body fluids (mostly water and blood plasma) in the circulatory system can increase the risk of organ damage, traumatic cardiac arrest, and even death.

Our body contains at least 50-60% body fluids which help remove toxic waste from the body. However, patients with hypovolemia lose more than 15% of their total fluid volume which causes hypovolemic shock where the heart is not able to pump enough blood throughout the body. This can be a result of severe injury, internal bleeding, vomiting or diarrhea.

Who is at risk of Traumatic Cardiac Arrest?

While TCA can affect all age groups, patients aged above 80 years are at a higher risk than others. Additionally, patients with head injuries, blood transfusion, and shock during admission are at an increased risk of being adversely affected by the condition. Traumatic cardiac arrest symptoms vary from one individual to another depending on their medical health, the severity of trauma and the history of any existing medical condition. Seek immediate medical care in case of emergency due to traumatic cardiac arrest.

How is the line of treatment different for Traumatic Cardiac Arrest (TCA)?

In case of traumatic cardiac arrest, the doctor aims to stop the bleeding, open the airway for improved airflow, and decompress the chest. While chest compressions are one the cornerstones of the treatment of non-traumatic cardiac arrest, the effectiveness of the treatment is only limited to patients with no injury or trauma. Therefore, the doctor may recommend finger decompressions on the affected side of the chest.

CPR is not recommended for traumatic cardiac arrest as it can damage the injury site and increase the risk of haemorrhage and cardiac tamponade.


Traumatic cardiac arrest refers to the medical condition where the person has no pulse or spontaneous respiratory activity. The risk of traumatic cardiac arrest is more common in older people with respiratory issues, high blood pressure levels, along with other medical anomalies. During a traumatic cardiac arrest, it is important to react fast to ensure the person receives treatment in time. While the condition may be fatal, quick response and correct measures can save the individual from further complications.


What are the after-effects of a cardiac arrest?

Traumatic cardiac arrest causes reduced blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body. The patient may feel unconscious, and experience seizures, headaches and even paralysis on either side of the body. The lack of swift response or treatment can even lead to death.

Can a cardiac arrest cause brain damage?

Traumatic cardiac arrest causes the heart to stop. Thus, the oxygen-rich blood does not reach the brain and causes stroke and brain damage within minutes.