- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson, who was with a cardiologist when he collapsed at his rented home in Los Angeles, appeared to have suffered a heart attack, a person with knowledge of the situation told Associated Press.

The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, said Jackson suffered a heart attack, which is a blocking of the arteries that can cause cardiac arrest. Jackson’s brother Jermaine said Thursday that it was believed the pop singer went into cardiac arrest, often but not always due to a heart attack.

A heart attack would not rule out drugs playing a role in his death, but could also indicate a long-term problem such as heart disease.

Police earlier today seized the car of Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist who practices in California, Nevada and Texas, who was with Jackson at the time of his death. Police said they believed the car may contain drugs or other evidence.

Only a coroner can declare a cause of death. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office, which had scheduled an autopsy for Friday, was planning a news conference later Friday afternoon.

Heart attacks often lead to cardiac arrest, where the heart rhythm is disrupted and the heart stops pumping blood, said Dr. Douglas Zipes, an Indiana University heart specialist and past president of the American College of Cardiology.

When autopsies are done on cardiac arrest victims, as many as three-fourths show signs of heart disease, such as clogged arteries, he said.

Finding signs of a heart attack would not rule out drugs playing a role. For example, injections of the powerful painkiller Demerol can depress normal breathing or cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and trigger a heart rhythm problem, said Dr. Lance Becker, a University of Pennsylvania emergency medicine specialist and an American Heart Association spokesman.

If that occurred in someone who already had clogged arteries, it could make the situation much worse, he said.

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