Symptoms and Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) describes a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating and blood is stops circulating through the body. If not treated immediately, patients who experience sudden cardiac arrest will die. Most cases of sudden cardiac arrest are caused by a type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) called ventricular fibrillation, or v-fib. The major risk factor for sudden cardiac arrest is undiagnosed coronary artery disease (CAD). Some people may also have an undiagnosed heart attack before the sudden cardiac arrest occurs. In both the CAD and heart attack, patients often have no symptoms to alert them of their condition until a sudden cardiac arrest occurs.

The first sign of sudden cardiac arrest is often loss of consciousness (fainting) and no heartbeat (or pulse) can be felt. Other symptoms of impending sudden cardiac arrest may include racing heartbeat, dizziness, or lightheadedness just before fainting. Some people will have chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting within an hour before the sudden cardiac arrest.

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