A Moment of Science

Flatline? Shockingly, No

You’ve probably seen a doctor on tv shock someone the minute they flatline, right?

That may be how it’s done on TV, but not in real life. See, those paddles, which are part of a machine called a defibrillator, don’t work by shocking the heart back into action after its stopped beating. The word fibrillate means flutter. It’s used to describe what can happen when you have a heart attack. When the electrical pulses that make your heart beat go haywire your heart starts to beat irregularly, or flutter.

The paddles use just enough voltage to shock the heart back into a regular rhythm without burning the skin. It’s kind of like restarting a computer when it freezes up. The defibrillator tries to do just what its name says, it de-fibrillates, meaning that it stops the irregular beating and resets the heart to beat regularly.

When the patient flatlines, there heart has stopped beating. That’s when its time for CPR and drugs, not the paddles. A defibrillator can’t shock a heart back into life after its stopped working. It can only help stop a heart attack.

  • misscatherinemciver

    Dear sir/madam, I am writing to you with regards to my fiance, he suffered a heart attack, and lost oxygen for 8 minutes. Since then he has lost his sense of balance, but is suffering with quite a degree of memory loss. Could you please help me to help him.

    Kindest Regards

    Miss Catherine McIver

  • misscatherinemciver

    Dear sir/madam, I am writing to you with regards to my fiance, he suffered a heart attack, and lost oxygen for 8 minutes. Since then he has lost his sense of balance, but is suffering with quite a degree of memory loss. Could you please help me to help him.

    Kindest Regards

    Miss Catherine McIver

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