A flatline is an electrical time sequence measurement that shows no activity and therefore, when represented, shows a flat line instead of a moving one. It almost always refers to either a flatlined electrocardiogram, where the heart shows no electrical activity (asystole), or to a flat electroencephalogram, in which the brain shows no electrical activity (brain death). Both of these specific cases are involved in various definitions of death.

Cardiac flatline

A cardiac flatline is also called asystole. It can possibly be generated by malfunction of the electrocardiography device, but it is recommended to first rule out a true asystole because of the emergency of such condition.

When a patient displays a cardiac flatline, the treatment of choice is cardiopulmonary resuscitation and injection of vasopressin (epinephrine and atropine are also possibilities).[1][2] Successful resuscitation is generally unlikely and is inversely related to the length of time spent attempting resuscitation. Defibrillation is not recommended,[2] despite commonly appearing on medical dramas as a remedy for asystole, but can be used for certain other causes of cardiac arrest.


  1. Caggiano, R. "E-Medicine: Asystole". www.emedicine.com. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
  2. Shirley A Jones (2014). ACLS, CPR, And PALS: Clinical Pocket Guide. F.A. Davis. ISBN 9780803643840. Page 113
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