Can You Survive a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Reviewed on 12/15/2022
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest is treatable and reversible if treatment is administered immediately.

Ninety percent of those who experience a sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive.

Sudden cardiac arrest can be fatal if not treated immediately. This occurs because of prolonged oxygen deprivation to the brain and other organs. Brain damage, chronic heart disease, and liver, kidney, and multiple organ failures can result from this.

With prompt and appropriate medical care, survival is possible. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator, or simply using chest compressions can increase the chances of survival until emergency personnel arrives.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops pumping blood to the brain and other organs. Although the terms “heart attack” or “massive heart attack” could be used to describe sudden cardiac arrest, they do not refer to the same condition.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart is reduced or interrupted, typically because of plaque rupture in one of the coronary arteries. The cardiac muscles die due to this.

A heart attack does not always mean that the heart stops beating. Though the heart may stop beating during a heart attack, this is not always the case. Though the two terms do not have the same meaning, a heart attack might result in SCA.

What Are the Symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

In more than half of instances, sudden cardiac arrest occurs with no warning signs.

Symptoms of a sudden cardiac arrest include:

What Are the Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

The heart's electrical system controls the rhythm and frequency of the heartbeat. A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) may happen when the heart's electrical system is not operating properly, resulting in arrhythmia.

Arrhythmia is irregular heartbeats (the heart beats too slow or fast). It can prevent the heart from pumping blood to the body, resulting in SCA. Specific illnesses and circumstances might bring on the electrical issues that result in SCA.

  • Ventricular fibrillation: The ventricles (the heart's lower chambers) beat rapidly and erratically. As a result, they cannot pump blood into the body. Most SCAs are brought on by this.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): Also called ischemic heart disease and occurs when the arteries of the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the organ. It frequently results from accumulating plaque (a waxy material) within the lining of bigger coronary arteries. The plaque may completely or partially obstruct blood flow to the heart.
  • Physical stress: Intense exercise causes the release of the hormone adrenaline, leading to a breakdown of the electrical circuit in the heart. People with heart conditions are most affected by this.
  • Mineral deficiency: Extremely low magnesium or potassium levels in the blood. The electrical mechanism of your heart depends on these minerals.
  • Extreme blood loss
  • Severe oxygen deficiency
  • Genetic disorders can result in cardiac arrhythmias
  • Changes in the structure of your heart caused by disease or infection

What Are the Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

The risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) are:

How is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treated?

Sudden cardiac arrest is treatable and reversible. However, you must act immediately to save a life. If therapy is administered in the first few minutes following a sudden cardiac arrest, the chance of survival could be 90 percent. Every minute that passes, the rate decreases by about 10 percent.

If you witness someone having a sudden cardiac arrest, do the following:

  • Immediately dial 911
  • Start performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR can save a life. Until help arrives, it keeps the blood and oxygen moving.
  • If there is an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby, use it. With an AED, the person has the best chance of surviving.
Sudden Cardiac Death and Cardiac Arrest

Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM, FACEP
Medical Editors: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

On June 25, 2009, paramedics were called to the home of Michael Jackson responding to calls that he wasn't breathing. They found him in cardiac arrest and started CPR. He was transported to UCLA medical center were numerous attempts to restart his heart failed and he was pronounced dead.

Every day, calls come into the 911 emergency dispatch centers across the country with frantic voices crying for help. A person can't be wakened, breathing has stopped, and a pulsecan't be felt. Cardiac arrest, the failure of the heart's electrical conducting system to generate a heart beat, marks the end of life. No matter what the cause, death happens when the heart stops beating.

The heart is an electrical pump. The mechanical pumping action that circulates blood requires an organized electrical system to get the heart muscleto squeeze. There are many reasons for the electrical activity to fail, and it's almost always due to irritable heart muscle cells that, in effect, cause a short circuit.

Reviewed on 12/15/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Cardiac Arrest.

Cardiac arrest.

Cardiac Arrest.

Sudden Cardiac Death (Sudden Cardiac Arrest).

Sudden Cardiac Arrest.