The pathophysiologies of asphyxial vs dysrhythmic cardiac arrest: implications for resuscitation and post-event management

Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Sep;33(9):1297-304. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2015.06.066. Epub 2015 Jul 6.


Background: Cardiac arrest is not a uniform condition and significant heterogeneity exists within all victims with regard to the cause of cardiac arrest. Primary cardiac (dysrhythmic) and asphyxial causes together are responsible for most cases of cardiac arrest at all age groups. The purpose of this article is to review the pathophysiologic differences between dysrhythmic and asphyxial cardiac arrest in the prearrest period, during the no-flow state, and after successful cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Methods: The electronic databases of PubMed/Medline, Scopus, and Cochrane were searched for relevant literature and studies.

Results/discussion: Significant differences exist between dysrhythmic and asphyxial cardiac arrest regarding their pathophysiologic pathways and affect consequently the postresuscitation period. Laboratory data indicate that asphyxial cardiac arrest leads to more widespread postresuscitation brain damage compared with dysrhythmic cardiac arrest. Regarding postresuscitation myocardial dysfunction, few studies have addressed a comparison of the 2 conditions with controversial results.

Conclusions: Asphyxial cardiac arrest differs significantly from dysrhythmic cardiac arrest with regard to pathophysiologic mechanisms, neuropathologic damage, postresuscitation organ dysfunction, and response to therapy. Both conditions should be considered and treated in a different manner.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / complications
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy
  • Asphyxia / complications
  • Asphyxia / physiopathology*
  • Asphyxia / therapy
  • Heart Arrest / diagnosis
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Resuscitation*