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Important heart disease health lessons from the collapse of NHL player Rich Peverley

March 17, 2014

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Last night my Twitter stream lit up with the news that NHL player Rich Peverley collapsed from a heart arrhythmia. Fortunately, he was successfully treated, and is reported to be in good condition.

Here is a link to the best story I could find. It sounds awfully significant.

[Dr.] Salazar said of the treatment, “We provided oxygen for him. We started an IV. We did chest compressions on him and defibrillated him, provided some electricity to bring a rhythm back to his heart, and that was successful with one attempt, which is very reassuring.”

A couple of things to clarify about this matter. First, cardiac arrest is different from heart attack. The term “heart attack” is used to mean myocardial infarction. This more common scenario occurs when a blood vessel, called a coronary artery, on the outside of the heart becomes blocked, usually with clot. The obstruction leads to death of the downstream heart muscle–ischemia. Sometimes this abrupt loss of nutrients to the heart can cause electrical instability and ventricular (not atrial) fibrillation. So some heart attacks can cause cardiac arrest.

This is not likely what happened to Mr. Peverley. Previous reports tell us that Mr. Peverley had been treated for heart rhythm problems in the preseason. Last night at the game, the video suggests he collapsed abruptly on the bench. Given his young age and prior history, it is likely he had a “primary” electrical disorder of some sort.

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