Asystole: Definition, Causes & Treatment

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  • 0:00 Definition of Asystole
  • 1:32 Causes of Asystole
  • 2:09 Treatment of Asystole
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennafer Tomlinson
This lesson will explain the definition, causes, and treatment of the cardiac rhythm called asystole. After reading this lesson, you will be able to comprehend why asystole is a true emergency.

Definition of Asystole

EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! Man Down! He isn't breathing and there is no heartbeat! We've got a FLAT LINE! Grab the paddles! Everybody clear! SHOCKING PATIENT NOW, buzzzzt!

Does that sound like a scene out of ER (the hit TV show Emergency Room)? In most movies and television shows, you will see emergency personnel running amuck trying to revive their patient in flat line, or asystole, by shocking them with a defibrillator. These scenes are a bit comical to medical personnel and after reading this lesson, you'll better understand why!

To better understand asystole, one must understand what a cardiac rhythm is. A cardiac rhythm is what an electrocardiogram machine, also known as an EKG monitor, displays when picking up the electrical activity of the heart. There are several types of cardiac rhythms, asystole being one. It is also important to understand that electrical impulses are what cause the heart to beat. Asystole is the cardiac rhythm that is caused by the cessation of electrical activity within the heart because the heart is no longer beating. Because there is no electrical activity within the heart, the EKG monitor will display a straight line, also known as a flat line in medical jargon. So, the cardiac rhythm known as asystole displays a flat line on an EKG monitor. When electrical activity is pulsating through a beating heart, an electrocardiogram will display lines in waves per each heartbeat.

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