Defibrillators don’t restart a flatline like on movies and TV. But how DO doctors/EMTs restart a totally stopped heart?



It only took a little googling to learn about fibrillation, cardiac arrest, and how CPR is only temporary. Other than screaming “Live, damn you!” And slamming fists on the patients chest whilst the camera zooms dramatically, (eye roll) what do the professionals really do? Is a flatline just game over? Or is fibrillation much more common than flatline?

In: Biology

For a flatline you inject adrenaline into the heart, which can (with luck) get the muscles moving again. CPR can sometimes cause it to start again on its own. Either way, chance of success are low, success without braindamage even lower. Fibrillation is more common than flatline, yes.

“Flatline” is correctly called asystole, and is a non-shockable rhythm.
Management is adrenaline, chest compressions, ventilation, and try to fix the problem that got you there. As you can imagine; this is often not very successful.

For more cardiac arrest guidance, have a look at the UK resuscitation council guidance and flowcharts, but broad principles are gas needs to go in and out (ventilation) blood needs to go round and round (chest compressions) and you need to remove whatever insult stopped the heart in the first place.

Note: I am UK based, so apologies if your local guidance doesn’t match this.

Slamming a fist on someone’s chest when their heart has stopped is an actual medical procedure. It’s called a pericardial thump.