Fitness influencer Larissa Borges, 33, dies after ‘double cardiac arrest’. But is that really a thing?

Larissa Borges tragically passed away at the age of 33, following a week-long coma resulting from a double cardiac arrest, stated media reports.

BySumit Jha

Published Sep 02, 2023 | 8:30 AMUpdatedSep 02, 2023 | 2:25 PM

Social media has been abuzz with discussions about 'double cardiac arrest' and several conclusions have arisen. (Sourced)

Larissa Borges, a prominent Brazilian fitness influencer, tragically passed away at the age of 33, following a week-long coma resulting from a “double cardiac arrest”, stated media reports.

The news of Borges’ untimely demise was conveyed to her followers by her family via her Instagram account.

“It is with deep sadness that we report the death of our beloved Larissa Borges. Larissa suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday, 20 August, in Gramado, and fought bravely in a coma for a week. She passed away on 28 August after she faced a new cardiac arrest and, unfortunately, did not resist. The pain of losing someone so young, at just 33 years old, and so lovely is overwhelming. Our hearts are broken and the longing we will feel is indescribable,” the statement, translated from Portuguese, reads.


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A post shared by Larissa Borges (@lariborgesx)

Following her passing, social media has been abuzz with discussions about “double cardiac arrest”, and several conclusions have arisen.

One prevailing notion in these discussions suggests that a double cardiac arrest occurs when both the atria and ventricles of the heart simultaneously experience an arrest.

However, an Indian cardiologist has pointed out that a “double cardiac arrest” is not a phenomenon.

Also read: Doctors react to cases of sudden cardiac arrest in teens

Heart attack vs cardiac arrest 

First things first: Let’s understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.

A heart attack results from a blocked artery that obstructs the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a part of the heart muscle. If the artery isn’t unblocked promptly, the affected area of the heart starts to die due to lack of oxygen.

Think of your heart like a house with pipes that carry water. Sometimes, one of these pipes may get clogged. When this happens, the clogged pipes get damaged over time, especially when not unclogged, and it subsequently affects the rest of the house.

Depiction of a person suffering from a heart attack. (Wikimedia Commons)

Depiction of a person suffering from a heart attack. (Wikimedia Commons)

In a heart attack, one of the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart gets blocked. You might feel this as pain in the chest, like a weight, and sometimes it can hurt a lot.

In contrast, a cardiac arrest is an abrupt and often unexpected event. It happens when the heart experiences an electrical malfunction, leading to an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. This disrupts the heart’s pumping action, preventing it from effectively circulating blood to vital organs like the brain and lungs.

Consequently, the person loses consciousness and has no detectable pulse. Without immediate treatment, death occurs within minutes.

To simplify, imagine your heart is like a machine that runs on electricity. If the electrical system goes haywire, the machine will stop working.

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“A heart attack can be likened to a plumbing issue in the heart, where one of the blood supplies or blood vessels to the heart becomes completely blocked. This results in damage to a portion of the heart muscle, constituting a heart attack. On the other hand, a cardiac arrest is an electrical problem, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating,” Senior Interventional Cardiologist and Managing Director of the Pulse Heart Center in Hyderabad, Dr Mukharjee Madivada, tells South First.

He adds that people experiencing a heart attack may often communicate their severe pain, whereas those experiencing a cardiac arrest may collapse without warning, unable to convey their distress.

Heart attack is a cause of cardiac arrest

“However, it’s important to note that one of the primary causes of cardiac arrest is a heart attack. When the heart’s pumping ability weakens, the risk of cardiac arrest increases, and one of the main culprits behind this weakened function is indeed a heart attack,” explains Dr Madivada.

“Nevertheless, a cardiac arrest is the more critical situation because, without immediate intervention, it can prove fatal within minutes. Unlike a heart attack, which is primarily related to blood flow, a cardiac arrest can be triggered by various factors such as high potassium levels or dangerously low oxygen levels in the body,” says Madivada.

He adds, “Hence, there exist numerous causes for cardiac arrest, while a heart attack typically results from the blockage of a blood vessel.”

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So can a double cardiac arrest occur?

Dr Madivada explains that the concept of “double cardiac arrest” doesn’t really exist. When someone experiences a cardiac arrest for any reason, it’s a life-threatening event, and, if left untreated, it can be fatal within minutes, but with medical help, the patient can be revived.

However, if the heart remains weak, perhaps due to factors like imbalanced potassium levels, cardiac arrest can recur for a second time.

“In a hospital setting, we may revive the patient, but unless we address the underlying issue, there’s a high risk of it happening again, often within the next 24 hours. So, there’s no official term for ‘double cardiac arrest’. It’s simply a way of unnecessarily causing fear,” says Dr Madivada.

He adds that the key is to identify the root cause. For instance, if a heart attack triggered the initial cardiac arrest, an angiogram would be performed to unblock the affected blood vessel.

“This can improve the heart’s pumping function, reducing the risk of further cardiac events. Sometimes, excess fluid around the heart can compress it and lead to cardiac arrest, but addressing the fluid issue can help revive the patient,” explains Dr Madivada.

He adds that both the atria and ventricles simultaneously stop.

“In a cardiac arrest, all four chambers of the heart will stop working. The critical aspect is ensuring the heart’s pumping function is restored to prevent further cardiac arrests.”