Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Facts and Essential Life-Saving Measures
October marks a crucial awareness month, National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month.
This annual observance aims to educate the public about the seriousness of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), its causes, risk factors, and what we can do to improve survival rates.
What is SCA?
SCA is a critical medical situation that occurs when the heart’s normal functioning is abruptly disrupted due to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system.
When the heart stops beating, blood circulation halts, resulting in insufficient oxygen delivery to the brain and other vital organs. This dire situation can lead to rapid loss of consciousness and, if not promptly treated, fatal consequences.
The Shocking Statistics
According to findings from the latest report from The American Heart Association:
- Over 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) occur annually in the U.S.
- Alarmingly, nearly 90% of these cases are fatal, highlighting how much of a pressing public health concern sudden cardiac arrest is.
- The survival rate to hospital discharge after EMS-treated cardiac arrest is a mere 10%, underscoring the importance of rapid intervention.
Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
A variety of causes can contribute to SCA, including:
Arrhythmias: Ventricular fibrillation and other types of arrhythmias are frequent causes of sudden cardiac arrest.
Coronary Artery Disease: The risk of SCA rises when the blood vessels responsible for transporting oxygen to the heart become narrowed or blocked, a condition often seen in coronary artery disease. Up to 80% of SCA cases involve coronary artery disease, making it the leading cause.
Structural Heart Problems: Conditions like cardiomyopathy or congenital heart defects can trigger SCA.
Electrolyte Imbalance: An imbalance of potassium, sodium, calcium, or magnesium in the body can disrupt the heart’s electrical signals.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse: Substance abuse can lead to dangerous heart rhythms.
Symptoms of SCA are immediate and severe and include:
- Sudden collapse.
- Loss of consciousness.
- No pulse.
- No breathing.
Who is at Risk?
SCA can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or overall health. However, certain factors increase the risk:
Family History: A family history of heart disease or sudden cardiac arrest can elevate an individual’s risk.
Existing Heart Conditions: Those with heart problems are at greater risk.
Lifestyle Factors: Excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and smoking can increase the risk of SCA.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack – What’s the Difference
It’s crucial to distinguish between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack:
An arterial blockage causes a heart attack, leading to damage to the heart muscle. Typical warning signs include chest pain, shortness of breath, and nausea.
During a SCA episode, malfunctions in the heart’s electrical system cause the heart to stop beating. There may be no warning signs when it comes to SCA.
What to Do in Case of an SCA
In the event of sudden cardiac arrest:
- Call 911: Immediately call for emergency medical assistance.
- Start CPR: Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to maintain blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
- Use an AED: If available, use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heart rhythm.
- Follow Instructions: Continue CPR and follow the instructions of emergency personnel until EMS help arrives.
Rapid Care ER, Emergency Care With Compassion
National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month is a vital reminder of the urgency and importance of understanding this deadly condition.
SAC can strike without warning and affect anyone. Knowing what to do and where to go can help save a life.
Rapid Care ER offers personalized quality emergency care with minimal wait times, a critical factor in improving survival rates for SCA. All our facilities are open 24/7 and ready to help when needed.