Management of medical cardiac arrest is challenging. The internationally agreed approach is highly protocolised with therapy and diagnosis occurring in parallel. Early identification of the precipitating cause increases the likelihood of favourable outcome. Echocardiography provides an invaluable diagnostic tool in this context. Acquisition of echo images can be challenging in cardiac arrest and should occur in a way that minimises disruption to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In this article, the reversible causes of cardiac arrest are reviewed with associated echocardiography findings.
A 71-year-old patient underwent right upper lobectomy for lung adenocarcinoma. On the 2nd post-operative day, he developed respiratory failure with rising oxygen requirement and right middle and lower lobe collapse and consolidation on chest X-ray. He was commenced on high-flow oxygen therapy and antibiotics. His condition continued to deteriorate and on the 3rd post-operative day he was intubated and mechanically ventilated. Six hours after intubation, he became suddenly hypotensive with a blood pressure of 50 systolic and then lost cardiac output. ECG monitoring showed pulseless electrical activity. CPR was commenced and return of circulation occurred after injection of 1 mg of adrenaline. Focused echocardiography was performed, which demonstrated signs of massive pulmonary embolism. Thrombolytic therapy with tissue plasminogen activator was given and his condition stabilised.