Sudden Cardiac Arrest
What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the
heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops
flowing to the brain and other vital organs.
Sudden cardiac arrest usually causes death if it's not treated within minutes.
To understand sudden cardiac arrest, it helps to understand how the heart
works. The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rate and
rhythm of the heartbeat. Problems with the electrical system can cause
called arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs).
There are many types of arrhythmias. During an
arrhythmia, the heart can beat
too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias can cause the
heart to stop pumping blood to the body. These are the type of arrhythmias that
cause sudden cardiac arrest.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow
to part of the heart muscle is blocked. During a heart attack, the heart usually
doesn't suddenly stop beating. Sudden cardiac arrest, however, may happen after or during recovery
from a heart attack.
People who have heart disease are at increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest. However, most
sudden cardiac arrests happen in people who appear healthy and have no known heart disease or
other risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest.
Ninety-five percent of people who have sudden cardiac arrest die from
it—most within minutes. Rapid treatment of sudden cardiac arrest with a defibrillator can be
lifesaving. A defibrillator is a device that sends an electric shock to the heart to try to restore its
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which often are found in public
places like airports and office buildings, can be used by bystanders to save the
lives of people who are having sudden cardiac arrest.
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