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Sodium Bicarbonate & Cardiac Arrest

By Carolyn Robbins

The human heart beats approximately seventy times per minute every minute for your entire life. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping, and death results without immediate medical intervention. One line of therapy for treating cardiac arrest is a buffer called sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda.

About Cardiac Arrest

The heart muscle is able to contract and pump blood to the body because of the stimulation of a built-in electrical system. Arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, occur when there is some problem with the heart's electrical system. Sudden cardiac arrest--SCA--occurs when the heart stops beating altogether. SCA is an extreme medical emergency and usually results in death unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are performed immediately.


The symptoms of cardiac arrest are dramatic and include loss of consciousness, collapse, no pulse and an inability to breath. Although certain risk factors, including heart disease, obesity and smoking, put you in a higher risk category, SCA can happen to anyone. If you are at high risk of SCA, your physician may prescribe antiarrhythmic drugs or recommend surgery to implant a defibrillator.

About Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound known as a buffer. It is an antacid commonly used to treat heartburn and reflux since it neutralizes stomach acid. Sodium bicarbonate can also be used therapeutically to treat sudden cardiac arrest.


Ordinarily, your lungs clear the body of carbon dioxide and bring in fresh oxygen. The fine balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen plays an important role in keeping your blood pH slightly alkaline. If your heart stops beating and you are suddenly unable to ventilate, your blood pH drops rapidly, leading to a condition called metabolic acidosis. According to the American Heart Association, the best way to reverse metabolic acidosis is immediate hyperventilation. However, using a buffer like sodium bicarbonate may benefit some SCA patients who have certain preexisting conditions or if resuscitation efforts are prolonged and ineffective.

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