The seriously ill patient presents many challenges and being able to assess the signs of an impending cardiac arrest demands great skill. However, if preventive measures fail and the patient suffers a cardiac arrest, basic life support must be instituted as quickly as possible, followed by advanced life support. When it is established that the cause for collapse is not cardiac, but originating elsewhere, the additional underlying causes of the arrest must then be considered and addressed. Systematic analysis of the reversible causes of a cardiac arrest will enable rescuers to recognise the precipitating factors, intervene appropriately and influence survival outcomes.

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