Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. In addition, if the heartbeat is not restored with an electrical shock immediately, death follows within minutes.
SCA takes one life every two minutes, claiming more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer, or AIDS. More than 350,000 deaths occur each year as a result of SCA. To decrease the death toll from SCA, it is important to understand what SCA is, what warning signs are, and how to respond and prevent SCA from occurring.
More than 80% of Indians not only underestimate the seriousness of SCA but also believe SCA is a type of heart attack. But that is like comparing apples to oranges.
SCA versus a Heart Attack
As time is crucial to saving someone who is having an SCA, it is important to understand the difference. The heart’s electrical system is what is affected when SCA occurs. During SCA, the heart stops beating and no blood is pumped to the rest of the body. This could be compared to losing electricity in your house. The heart “electricity” must be turned back on, typically through electrical shock.
A heart attack affects the “plumbing” of the heart. A heart attack is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that interrupts the flow of blood causing an area of the heart muscle to die. The heart must be “unclogged,” with drug therapy, angioplasty or surgery, in order to continue the blood flow to the rest of the body.
While both cause serious problems and possible death, SCA often occurs abruptly and without warning. In fact, two-thirds of SCA deaths occur without any prior indications of heart disease, while heart attacks often have previous signs and symptoms.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Usually, the first sign of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a loss of consciousness (fainting). At the same time, no heartbeat (or pulse) can be felt.
Some people may have a racing heartbeat or feel dizzy or light-headed just before they faint. Before SCA some people have chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea (feeling sick to the stomach), or vomiting.
Can sudden cardiac arrest be prevented?
Death is best treated by prevention. Most sudden death is associated with heart disease, so the at-risk population remains males older than 40 years of age who smoke, have high BP and diabetes (the risk factors for heart attack). Other risks include syncope (fainting or loss of consciousness) and known heart disease. LVEF determined by 2D
Echo is the most important factor to determine the risk of SCA.
Syncope, or loss of consciousness, is another significant risk factor for sudden death. There is always a concern that the reason is an abnormal heart rhythm that subsequently got corrected on its own. The fear is that the next episode may not get corrected on its own. The only way to correct the abnormal rhythm which does not get corrected on its own is to give DC shock to the patient; however patient should reach the heart hospital. In patients who are identified as being at high risk for SCA especially those with markedly decreased ejection fractions, using implantable defibrillators (ICD) can reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest dramatically. These devices are placed under the skin in the chest wall and have wires that are attached to the heart itself. When they detect ventricular fibrillation, a shock is automatically delivered to the heart, restoring a heartbeat and averting SCA.
Stop SCA before it stops you.
Every year more than unaccountable hearts suddenly and unexpectedly…Stop. But they didn’t have to. Early intervention could have saved their lives. Sudden Cardiac Arrest – a condition we need to stop. SCA is deadly and can happen to anyone, but chances are greater in Indians. Most high-risk patients do not receive recommended treatments. Over 80% of Indian patients think they don’t need to go to the doctor after experiencing heart disease symptoms. It’s time to arrest the risk by talking to your doctor.
The heart attack survivors are at the highest risk for SCA and stress needs to be laid on the importance of maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle and learning critical risk markers, especially Ejection Fraction (EF).