EXPLAINER: Doctor’s testimony details Floyd’s heart activity

For Your Health

In this image from video, witness Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead, testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, April 5, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

George Floyd had “pulseless electrical activity” and his heart wasn’t beating when he arrived at a Minneapolis hospital, a doctor testified Monday.

Dr. Bradford Langenfeld was on duty at Hennepin County Medical Center the night Floyd was brought in after being restrained by police last May, and testified Monday at the trial of one of the officers.

Here’s what Langenfeld saw and what it means:


It means that some feeble or disorganized electrical activity can be detected on a heart monitor but it’s not enough to make the heart beat and supply blood and oxygen to the rest of the body.


Floyd had no pulse when he arrived and was in cardiac arrest, which Langenfeld described as the “sudden cessation of blood flow to all the tissues of the body when the heart stops pumping.” The doctor described looking for possible explanations and theorized that hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen, was one of the top possibilities.

Doctors measured gases in Floyd’s blood and saw extremely high carbon dioxide levels, again suggesting lack of sufficient oxygen.


Floyd was given some medicines that sometimes can help restore circulation, but that did not help. Defibrillators to shock a heart back into normal rhythm do not work in a situation like Floyd’s. A narcotics antidote such as Narcan also does not help once someone is in cardiac arrest, Langenfeld said.


Floyd had been in cardiac arrest before arriving at the hospital and doctors worked on him for roughly half an hour after his arrival. After his heart activity stopped altogether — “flatlining” Langenfeld called it — the doctor pronounced him dead.

The county medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide and said he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”


Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video Forecast

More Forecast

Don't Miss