What is commotio cordis? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Cardiac arrest that often takes place when an athlete sustains a sudden and sharp blow to the chest goes by a fancy Latin name. Hugh Calkins, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Johns Hopkins, explains.

Calkins: Commotio cordis is a condition that has been discovered decades ago, is actually fairly well known among cardiologists. If something hits your chest at a high speed at exactly the wrong time, that can induce VF. The heart is beating 6-800 beats a minute, you can barely count how fast these impulses are. The heart’s just quivering like a bag of worms, and if you don’t get in there and give that shock to the chest the patient is going to die from this condition.  :27

VF is shorthand for ventricular fibrillation. The ventricles are the two lower chambers of the heart and they pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. They must act in a coordinated and rhythmic fashion to do so, so when fibrillation takes place a shock must be delivered to restore proper function. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.