Why Your Medical Dramas Are Wrong About the Flat-line Emergency Room Scenes
Everyone loves a good drama. No matter the medium—television, radio, magazine, internet—most people like to see the overused theme of man’s struggle and his rise above the odds. This is why medical dramas and its counterparts are well-loved and well-received by the audience.
One flaw that is seen on almost any medical drama though is the revival of a patient with flat-line. Miraculously, a doctor will be sending electrical charges to a patient with no heart rhythm and his heart will restart. Viola! The patient lives to tell the tale. This is something that medical professionals find either absurd or highly entertaining because in reality, you cannot revive a flat-line patient using electrical shocks.
It is important first and foremost that we understand how our heart works before the flat-line norm is discussed. For our hearts to function, shocks must be given to it so it would produce contractions that would then send blood to the brain and other vital organs of the body. To summarize without the intricacies of physiology, the electrolytes (potassium, sodium and calcium) are responsible for reaching the right amount of charge so the heart can send out its shock known as depolarization in the Sinoartrial node (SA node). From this shock, the atria contracts that is the upper part of the heart while the ventricles receive the blood from the upper part, thus what we now know as the pulse.
In a cardiac arrest, a patient has no pulse and would need an electrical shock. There are a number of heart rhythms that occur during a cardiac arrest; however, the most is Ventricular fibrillation. Remember the electrolytes that create the charge for a shock in the SA node? When the SA node fails to create this beat, other cells within the heart “attempt” to produce the necessary shock to make a beat. This results to simultaneous shocks from different directions to numerous areas of the heart, creating an erratic beat that resembles that of a heart having a seizure. The goal of the shock from an AED is to create an electrical charge that is stronger than the ones generated by the other cells to push all the electrolytes out of the cells at the same time while hoping that the normal operation of the heart takes over.
So when a patient is in asystole or having a flat-line, there are no electrolytes inside the cells to shock. What you would be doing is shocking an empty vessel and you would get nothing more than a flat-line. The gist is that you need to have an electrical impulse, no matter how little it is, to work with. Shocking a patient that had asystole would only burn his heart with the heat created from the shock.
In the end, it always pays to be a smart viewer. You simply cannot take all information without giving the benefit of the doubt. If you get an information and want to be sure of it, you can research about it. If you really want to know more about CPR and AED, instead of relying on medical dramas, you yourself can learn how to properly administer and even when to administer CPR or AED by undergoing training. Certified training courses such as the ones provided by Citywide CPR is a more relevant way of learning your first aid, with no flawed information and facts.