Myth #3: It’s easy to recover from “flatlining” on a heart monitor.
It’s the moment that secretly enthralls you as a devoted film fanatic. The leading lady is sick, but there’s still hope, because in the background, you hear the life-affirming beep, beep of the heart monitor. And then, in a quick twist of fate, the staccato turns to a single, lengthy, monotone.
Nurses and doctors rush into the room clutching paddles to attempt a vigorous resuscitation, and the curtain is drawn.
It’s faint at first – a whisper of sound, and then it’s louder – the familiar rhythmic beep beep returns. The leading lady is safe again for now, and you join your fellow moviegoers in an audible sigh of relief.
But maybe don’t celebrate quite yet.
‘Flatlining’ refers to the state of the heart when it shows no electrical activity, and it’s not always possible to recover once you’ve had this type of cardiac event.
“When a heart flatlines, what happens is that beep that you hear actually goes away,” notes Dr. Ivan Salgo, Associate Chief Medical Officer.
“We typically call that ‘asystole,’ but it could be some other type of malignant rhythm, and that means that we have to intervene immediately because there’s a life-threatening event.”