When a person ceases to breathe on their own, they enter a state known as respiratory arrest. This is an extremely dangerous condition that can be difficult to diagnose in certain instances. The treatment for respiratory arrest is relatively straightforward, but needs to be administered promptly to ensure a good outcome.
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Respiratory arrest is characterised by a patient's inability to breathe without assistance. It can be caused by many different factors, but before any of the underlying causes can be treated, the respiratory arrest diagnosis must be reached. Diagnosis is relatively easy in most cases. Patients will struggle to breathe, motion towards their chest or throats and be visibly agitated without the ability to speak. Respiratory arrest is much more difficult to diagnose in small children and in those who are unconscious. The use of a stethoscope is indicated in such situations.
There are several different types of respiratory arrest, each separated into a category determined by its root cause. Some arrests are precipitated by airways blockages. Such blockages can take the form of simple congestion (especially in infants), lodged food matter or any other objects that can block an airway. Other respiratory arrests are caused by neurological disorders, and still others are due to muscular failures such as those caused concurrently with cardiac arrest.
The major deleterious effect of respiratory arrest is the nearly immediate brain damage that is caused from lack of oxygen. When a person's breathing stops, they rapidly begin to deplete the oxygen stored in their bloodstream. Even if their heart continues to beat, the blood it is circulating steadily loses oxygen. Eventually this will lead to brain damage, cardiac arrest and death.
Those battling a respiratory arrest situation need to realise that time is not on their side. In fact, if left untreated within a minute or so, a patient whose breathing has ceased will enter into cardiac arrest. Within a few more minutes, they will begin to sustain irreversible brain damage. In order to prevent this, it is of the utmost importance that patients in respiratory arrest be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
Treatment of respiratory arrest is relatively simple, but time is of the essence. The first step is to diagnose the patient. Once a diagnosis of respiratory arrest has been determined, the airway needs to be checked for obstructions, since it is the most common cause. If any obstructions are found, they need to be removed. Once the airway is clear, artificial respiration needs to be administered. Once the patient is stabilised and is receiving air, the underlying cause of the arrest needs to be determined and treated in order to reverse the condition altogether.
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