Sudden cardiac arrest is a public health issue with increasing and widespread incidences. October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. The initiative was created to raise awareness for Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and help the public become more informed about what it is, how it affects people, and what can be done to help save lives.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Facts
- More than 350,000+ deaths occur each year as a result of sudden cardiac arrest.
- SCA claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer, or AIDS.
- To decrease the death toll from SCA, it is important to understand what SCA is, what the warning signs are, and how to respond and prevent SCA from occurring.
What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
The following public service announcement in the video below explains the dangers of SCA from Zoll Medical.
Sudden cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, which usually is caused by an arterial blockage. SCA causes the heart to suddenly and unexpectedly stop beating. A person with no signs of heart disease can suddenly pass out and appear lifeless. The survival rate outside of a hospital setting is only 1% to 5%, but the chance of survival increases considerably if they can be immediately treated with CPR and an AED.
Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs with no warning at all. When a sudden cardiac arrest happens, the victim collapses, becomes unresponsive, and is not breathing normally. They may appear to be gasping, choking, or having a seizure.
Consider these statistics:
- Sudden cardiac arrest can affect anyone, regardless of health.
- Between 300,000 and 400,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest in a non-hospital environment every year
- SCA causes more deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer, motor vehicle accidents and diabetes, combined
- For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by about 10%
- The average time for paramedics to arrive once 911 is called is 8 to 12 minutes
What are the Warning Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
The symptoms or signs of a sudden cardiac arrest are usually immediate and drastic. They include:
- A sudden collapse
- No pulse
- No breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Some signs and symptoms that have been known to precede sudden cardiac arrest.
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
However, sudden cardiac arrest often occurs with no warning. That’s why it is important to know what do do if you experience someone in sudden cardiac arrest.
What to do if you are faced with someone in sudden cardiac arrest?
To survive sudden cardiac arrest, the victim must receive life-saving defibrillation from an automated external defibrillator (AED) within the first three to five minutes. Every minute that passes without a shock from an AED decreases the chance of survival by 10%. Administering hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be a bridge to life until an AED arrives.
Call 911 or have someone nearby call 911 immediately.
If you are able, call 911 right away. The emergency dispatcher can help guide you through what you can do until responders arrive to help the victim.
Perform CPR Immediately.
Check to see if the person is breathing. If he/she is not breathing begin pushing hard on the person’s chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. The following Video demonstrates “Hands-only CPR” – a recommended CPR technique, which can make a difference between life and death.
Use a defibrillator (an AED) if available.
Portable automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are available in an increasing number of places, including airports, casinos and shopping malls. You can also purchase them for your home. AEDs come with built-in instructions for their use. They’re programmed to allow a shock only when appropriate.
More information on the Causes and Risk Factors for Cardiac Arrest can be found in this article at MayoClinic.org.