Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart abruptly stops beating, often without warning, leading to a sudden collapse. Recognizing SCA is crucial, as immediate action can be lifesaving.
If you suspect SCA, call for emergency support and commence CPR promptly. Without intervention, death can occur within minutes. Employing an automated external defibrillator (AED), if available, is vital. AEDs, found in various locations, can detect harmful heart rhythm changes and administer an electric shock (defibrillation).
If someone else is present, ask them to locate an AED. Acting swiftly with CPR and AED application within the initial minutes of SCA significantly enhances the likelihood of survival.
|During a heart attack …
|During sudden cardiac arrest …
|Blood supply to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked, but the heart keeps beating; however, there may be damage to the heart muscle.
|The electrical system of the heart goes wrong (think of the way the lights flash before the power goes out), and the heart stops pumping blood.
|Usually, the person knows something is happening, and can talk about his or her symptoms.
|Usually, the person is unconscious, and a pulse may not be found.
While a heart attack may, in certain instances, trigger the electrical abnormalities leading to sudden cardiac arrest, it’s important to note that these events don’t necessarily occur simultaneously.
Sudden cardiac arrest can occur in individuals without a history of heart disease. Although approximately 80% of cases are attributed to pre-existing coronary artery disease, in many instances, SCA serves as the initial indication of a heart issue. This means that those affected may be unaware of their heart disease until experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
The precise cause of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is not fully understood, but it is often attributed to a dangerous heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation.
SCA can occur in individuals of any age, although certain groups are at a higher risk. For instance, the likelihood increases if someone has previously experienced SCA or if there is a family history of SCA among parents, children, or siblings. Men and African Americans also face an elevated risk.
Specific diseases or conditions can disrupt the heart’s electrical system, leading to SCA. These include:
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) typically occurs without warning, often marked by the sudden onset of fainting, collapsing, or appearing lifeless. You may not be able to feel a pulse, it’s critical to call an ambulance right away.
Recent studies involving SCA survivors reveal that, in certain instances, people recollect sensing that something was amiss before the event. These pre-SCA indicators include:
Another study highlights that half of patients aged 35 to 65 experienced warning signs, primarily chest pain and shortness of breath, within the 24 hours leading up to the SCA. In some cases, individuals reported having warning signs for weeks before the event.
The only effective treatment for SCA is to promptly restore the heart’s normal rhythm, typically achieved by using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to administer a shock to the heart. Every passing minute without intervention reduces the chance of survival by 7% to 10%.
People present at the scene during an SCA episode play a pivotal role in saving lives, and their swift actions can be the determining factor between life and death.
What to Do:
People who survive an SCA require advanced emergency and cardiac care. Doctors employ basic cardiac testing to identify the cause of SCA and adjust treatment accordingly.
For certain patients, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) may be necessary. Implanted beneath the skin, ICDs can detect abnormal rhythms and deliver mild shocks to restore a normal heartbeat.
Since most instances of SCA occur in people who have experienced a heart attack or have hearts with reduced pumping ability (low ejection fraction) or heart failure, healthcare teams can take preventive measures to avoid repeat events.
It is crucial for SCA survivors to adhere to their treatment plans. The best approach is to adopt a healthy lifestyle by:
What Else You Can Do:
Keep in mind: