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Respiratory Arrest

Respiratory Arrest Pronunciation: Res-pi-ra-tory Ar-rest (ˌrespəˈrəˌtôrē əˈrest)

Definition: Respiratory arrest is a medical emergency in which breathing ceases completely. This can deprive the body’s vital organs of oxygen, leading to severe complications or death if not promptly treated.

What is Respiratory Arrest?


Respiratory arrest is the cessation of breathing, which can occur due to numerous causes such as injury, illness, or a blockage in the airway. It can result in a loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest if immediate medical intervention is not provided.

Key Facts about Respiratory Arrest:

  • Respiratory arrest refers to the stoppage of effective breathing and is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.
  • It may occur as a result of choking, drowning, severe asthma, or a severe allergic reaction, among other causes.
  • When respiratory arrest occurs, the body’s vital organs are deprived of oxygen, leading to loss of consciousness and potentially cardiac arrest.
  • Rescue measures such as rescue breathing or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help provide oxygen to the body until medical help arrives.
  • Immediate emergency medical intervention is critical to increase the chances of survival and minimize the risk of permanent damage.

Respiratory Arrest Recognition & Response

How to recognize and respond to Respiratory Arrest?

Recognizing respiratory arrest and responding appropriately is critical. Key signs include:

  • Unresponsiveness or altered level of consciousness
  • No visible chest movement or breath sounds
  • Bluish color of the skin, lips, and fingertips (cyanosis)

Upon recognizing these signs:

  • Immediately call for medical help or ask someone else to do so.
  • Start rescue breathing or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as appropriate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Respiratory Arrest

What causes Respiratory Arrest?

Respiratory arrest can be caused by many factors, including blockage of the airways (as in choking or severe asthma), damage to the lungs or respiratory centers in the brain, severe infections, or certain medications or substances.

What is the difference between Respiratory Arrest and Cardiac Arrest?

In respiratory arrest, the person stops breathing but may still have a pulse, at least initially. In contrast, cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating effectively, which may or may not be preceded by respiratory arrest.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): First aid. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from
  2. MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Breathing – slowed or stopped. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from