The Basic Difference Between Respiratory and Cardiac Arrest and the Use of CPR

Respiratory and cardiac arrest are life-threatening emergencies requiring immediate medical attention. If not treated, both conditions can lead to death. However, some differences between the two make using CPR for each situation unique. This blog talks about both these conditions in detail. You will also learn how a CPR certification can help revive a person suffering from either.

Respiratory and cardiac arrest: Similarities and Differences

The lungs and the heart are two vital organs in the body. While the lungs help you breathe, the heart allows blood to travel across the system. Both of these need to work in coordination for other organs to survive. When either of them experiences distress, the body could show similar symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. The below-mentioned similarities and differences will help you tell them apart.


  1. Both respiratory and cardiac arrest are medical emergencies that require immediate medical intervention.
  2. Various factors, including trauma, drug overdose, and medical conditions, can cause both conditions.
  3. Both conditions can be treated through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If not treated quickly and adequately, both lead to death.


  1. You can experience chest and loss of consciousness in a cardiac arrest. A respiratory arrest occurs when the lungs stop functioning and the patient stops breathing.
  2. Respiratory arrest is usually caused by a blockage in the airway. It could include a foreign object or an obstruction due to an allergic reaction. Cardiac arrest is usually caused by an electrical malfunction in the heart, such as an arrhythmia.
  3. Respiratory arrest is often reversible with proper medical intervention. Cardiac arrest is usually irreversible and requires immediate CPR and defibrillation.
  4. You need oxygen and medications to open the airway in a respiratory arrest. A cardiac arrest requires CPR and defibrillation to restore the heart rhythm.

Which activities could put you in respiratory arrest?

A respiratory arrest is common in people who have previous lung issues. However, many other incidents, like those below, could also trigger respiratory distress.

  1. Overdose of a Sedative: Sedatives cause respiratory depression, leading to respiratory arrest.
  2. Near Drowning: If you stay underwater for too long, you could inhale some of it. It leads to oxygen deprivation and respiratory arrest.
  3. Allergies: An allergic reaction can cause the narrowing of the airways, leading to respiratory arrest.
  4. Severe Asthma Attack: People with asthma have narrow airways. Any form of allergy or internal stimulus could cause it to inflame, leading to an attack.
  5. Heart Attack: A heart attack can cause a drop in oxygen levels in the body, leading to respiratory arrest.

Which activities could put you in cardiac arrest?

Many issues could lead to cardiac arrest if someone is not careful about their health. Some people may have congenital heart conditions that cause problems. While others acquire this ailment through lifestyle choices. Some activities that could lead to cardiac arrest include the following:

  1. Physical Exercise: Significantly strenuous activities can put a lot of stress on the heart leading to cardiac arrest.
  2. Drug Abuse: Illegal drugs and misuse of prescription drugs can lead to cardiac arrest due to their toxic effects on the heart.
  3. Extreme Emotional Stress: Built-up stress causes irregular heartbeats leading to cardiac arrest.
  4. Electric Shock: Electric shocks can disrupt the electrical signals to the heart. A shock causes it to stop beating normally, leading to cardiac arrest.

Importance of CPR in emergencies

During both respiratory and cardiac arrest, the body lacks oxygenated blood. The immediate solution to this problem is the administration of CPR. The below-mentioned points highlight how CPR works during either of these health conditions.

  1. CPR helps to compress the chest and keep the airways open, allowing oxygen to enter the lungs.
  2. You can restore blood circulation to the body through chest compression in CPR.
  3. CPR helps to pump oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain manually.
  4. CPR helps prevent brain and other organ damage due to lack of oxygen.
  5. It also helps to restore normal breathing and heart rate.
  6. You can buy time for medical personnel to arrive and provide more advanced care through CPR.
  7. An important reason to use CPR is to reduce the risk of permanent disability due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.


CPR is a lifesaving technique that provides oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. It is an essential tool for respiratory and cardiac arrest, but the steps and procedures differ slightly for each condition. You can take a recognized online CPR certification from the American HealthCare Academy. This institute offers a comprehensive course with many lifesaving techniques. Log onto the AHCA website and explore the options today.

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