Pop Icon Michael Jackson Dead from Cardiac Arrest

“The King of Pop”  Michael Jackson, age 50, was rushed by ambulance from his home to a hospital in Los Angeles. The 911 call reportedly came in at 12:21pm, Pacific time. TMZ.com reported that Jackson suffered cardiac arrest and that paramedics administered CPR in the ambulance. KABC-TV has confirmed Jackson was taken to UCLA Medical Center. Family members are on route to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 PST today.  An autopsy will be performed on Friday.  We will report back as more information becomes available at that time.

Cardiac arrest
is a medical term which implies that a heart has stopped beating. It is not the same thing as a heart attack (myocardial infarction) where blockage of blood flood to the heart muscle causes part of the muscle to die. If a large enough area of heart muscle dies, the heart will have difficulty beating and cardiac arrest will ensue.  There are many other causes of cardiac arrest as well, including  respiratory arrest, electrocution, drowning, choking and trauma. Cardiac arrest can also occur without any known cause.

Because the heart is not beating, oxygen is not being delivered to all parts of the body. Loss of oxygen to the brain causes the victim to lose consciousness and to stop breathing. Permanent brain injury is likely if the cardiac arrest is untreated for more than 5 minutes. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency, but it may be reversible if treated early enough.  The primary first-aid treatment  for cardiac arrest is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (or CPR), and should be started as soon as possible and continued until emergency personnel arrive on the scene. Current recommendations for CPR for adults has recently been simplified into what is called “Hands Only CPR.”  It has only two steps:

1. Call 911 (or have someone else do it)
2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Studies of real emergencies that have occurred in homes, at work or in public locations, show that these two steps, called Hands-Only™ CPR,can be as effective as conventional CPR. Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double that person’s chance of survival.


Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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