ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The autopsy results for the 51-year-old James Gandolfini confirm that the actor died of a sudden heart attack with no evidence of substance abuse or foul play.
According to emergency room sources in Rome, doctors battled for 40 minutes to try to save Gandolfini’s life before pronouncing him dead.
CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook says the actor may have had a serious heart problem he knew nothing about.
“With sudden cardiac arrest, there’s too little blood flow to a part of the heart and that part of heart starts to have abnormal electrical activity,” LaPook says, “and the heart, instead of beating normally, it beats like a bag of worms and the blood doesn’t get out of the heart effectively, it doesn’t get up to the brain and the person passes out and dies.”
LaPook says about 350,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest every year, and about half had no idea they had any kind of heart problem.
“It’s tragic when it happens and about half of the time people have no idea that they have any underlying heart disease, so it comes as an especial shock to the family,” he says.
Sudden cardiac arrest can be due to a heart attack, a heart rhythm problem or a result of trauma.