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What is sudden cardiac arrest?
- Sudden cardiac arrest is among the leading killers of Americans, striking an estimated 382,800 people in the US each year.1
- Sudden cardiac arrest is an abrupt loss of heart function caused primarily by the rapid and/or chaotic electrical activity of the heart known as ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF). During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart fails to pump blood to the vital organs.
- Signs of sudden cardiac arrest include unconsciousness and irregular or no breathing.
- Sudden cardiac arrest renders a person clinically dead within minutes, unless treated immediately with defibrillation or with bystander CPR followed by defibrillation. For every minute that elapses after sudden cardiac arrest, the chances of survival diminish 10 percent.
- Sudden cardiac arrest is NOT a heart attack (myocardial infarction), which is caused by a blocked vessel leading to loss of blood supply to a portion of the heart muscle. However, sudden cardiac arrest often occurs secondary to a heart attack.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a serious
public health issue.
- About nine out of 10 Americans who have suffered a SCA have
died. This 92 percent death rate on the national level has not
significantly improved for more than three decades.
- Almost 80 percent of sudden cardiac arrests happen outside
the hospital, and less than 30 percent of victims receive
Sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.
- The causes of sudden cardiac arrest in children and adolescents are
varied and often include undiagnosed heart conditions that result from
abnormal heart structure or function, primarily electrical abnormalities
or outside factors such as a sudden blow to the chest or drug use.
- In the United States, a young competitive athlete dies suddenly every
three days. The average age when sudden cardiac death occurs in
young athletes is 17.5 years.
- The risk of SCA is three times greater in competitive athletes. More
than two-thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and
football players (67%). College male basketball players are
disproportionately affected by SCA (1 in almost 7,000).
How you can help save the lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims.
- Recognizing SCA is the first crucial step. You should always call 911
if you see someone collapse.
- Sudden cardiac arrest is time critical. Waiting for help to arrive will
decrease the chances of survival. If chest compressions are not
provided to SCA victims within a few minutes, they will likely die.
- Chest compressions keep oxygen in the blood circulating
throughout the body.
- Using an AED to shock the heart back into rhythm can
double the chance of survival.
(1) American Heart Association's 2012 Heart and Stroke Statistics (Circulation. Jan 3 2012;125(1):e2-e220)