Sadly, we have another teaching moment in the news: the "cardiac arrest" reported as a cause of death for music artist Michael Jackson.
Recently, I described how the unexpected death of Natasha Richardson from an epidural hematoma could be used as starting point for a discussion of the structure of the coverings of the brain and how things can go wrong.
Scientific American's blog 60-Second Science has a nice article that describes the different between a "heart attack" and "cardiac arrest," a distinction lost on most folks. But A&P students, especially those headed into health or athletic/fitness fields, should be aware of what these terms mean and how it illustrates the normal function of the heart in maintaining the blood flow needed for healthy survival.
I think the contents of the blog article, and its clarification of what is usually meant by the term "cardiac arrest," is a great starting point for possible discussions of:
- Whether the terms "heart attack" and "cardiac arrest" are useful enough or precise enough for (a) public reporting and/or (b) medical reporting and recordkeeping.
- How are these two situations similar? What do they have in common? Can one lead to the other?
- What is "heart failure" and how does that relate to the above conditions?
- What factors may lead to any of the above conditions?
- What happens to blood flow when the heart beats too fast? too slow? too weakly?
- What effects might the illicit/unsupervised use of drugs have on heart function?
- Can the supervised use of drugs have harmful effects on heart function?
- Can educated observers reading the public media really deduce what happened to Michael Jackson? What do we (think we) know, and is that enough to form a solid hypothesis? What information would we like to have to form a theory of the cause of death?
- There are conflicting reports of the state of health of Michael Jackson immediately preceding his death . . . are any of them reliable as scientific evidence of cause of death?
In any case, this story presents yet another opportunity to leverage the interests of students in a particular case to explore the concepts of an A&P course.
Michael Jackson and cardiac arrest
Scientific American 26 June 2009
[60-Second Science blog article calling attention to the subject of "cardiac arrest"]
Heart Disease and Sudden Cardiac Death
WebMD accessed 6 July 2009
[Excellent article explaining cardiac arrest]
Here's a video with an M.D. explaining "cardiac arrest" relative to the Jackson case:
[The image that appears with this article is a FREE image depicting the international symbol for an AED (automatic external defibrillator]