health care  
All about sudden cardiac death causes of sudden cardiac death sudden cardiac death risk factors treatment for sudden cardiac death prevention of sudden cardiac death surviving recurrent cardiac arrest cardiac arrest causes of cardiac arrest cardiac arrest symptoms diagnosis of cardiac arrest treatments for cardiac arrest

What're the treatments for cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac death (also called sudden arrest) is death resulting from an abrupt loss of heart function (cardiac arrest). Sudden cardiac death is an instant unexpected death which occurs within one hour of an abrupt change in a person's stable clinical state. The mechanism is generally a ventricular tachyarrhythmia. The underlying pathology is usually coronary heart disease in middle-aged and elderly persons, but can also be one of the familial well-defined cardiomyopathies such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia or long QT syndrome. In

children and young athletes the two main causes of sudden death are long QT syndrome and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Loss of consciousness and family history of sudden cardiac death should encourage the physician to examine the patient's relatives.

Sudden cardiac arrest cases are usually due to abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias, the vast majority of which are ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is a condition in which the heart's electrical impulses suddenly become chaotic, causing the heart to cease pumping blood effectively. Victims of SCA collapse and quickly lose consciousness, often without warning. Unless a normal heart rhythm is restored, death will follow within a matter of minutes.

The cause of sudden cardiac arrest is not well understood. Many victims have no history of heart disease, or if heart disease is present, it has not functionally impaired them. Unlike a heart attack, which is the death of muscle tissue from loss of blood supply, many victims of SCA have no prior symptoms. SCA can strike anyone, at any time, anywhere.

SCD is the death of a person due to the sudden loss of function of the heart. This type of death is rarely expected because it usually occurs very shortly after the first symptoms start showing. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart stops beating suddenly and unexpectedly due to a malfunction in the heart's electrical system. The malfunction that causes SCA is a life-threatening abnormal rhythm, or arrhythmia. The most common arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation (VF).

When in VF, the heart's rhythm is so chaotic (called "fibrillating") that the heart merely quivers, and is unable to pump blood to the body and brain. These graphics show a heart with a normal rhythm and a heart experiencing ventricular fibrillation (VF). Once a heart has entered VF, sudden cardiac arrest occurs. A victim in SCA first loses his or her pulse, then consciousness, and finally the ability to breathe. But all of this happens quickly-in a matter of seconds. Without immediate treatment from a defibrillator, 90-95 percent of SCA victims will die.

The only way to effectively treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is with an electrical shock delivered by a defibrillator. Voltage stored by the defibrillator pushes electrical current through the heart by means of the electrodes or paddles placed on the chest. This brief pulse of current halts the chaotic activity of the heart, giving it a chance to start beating again with a normal rhythm. Delivering a shock that returns the heart to a normal rhythm is called defibrillation. Survival rates for SCA are highest when defibrillation occurs within the first few minutes. The person has the best chance of survival if the defibrillation shock is given within the first three minutes of collapsing.

The victim may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs within minutes after symptoms appear. The most common underlying reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease (fatty buildups in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle).When the heart suddenly stops beating effectively and breathing ceases, a person is said to have experienced sudden cardiac death.

SCD is not the same as actual death. In actual death, the brain also dies. The important difference is that sudden cardiac death is potentially reversible. If it is reversed quickly enough, the brain will not die. Sudden cardiac death is also not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the result of a blockage in an artery which feeds the heart, so the heart becomes starved for oxygen. The part that has been starved is damaged beyond repair, but the heart can still beat effectively.

More information on sudden cardiac death

What is sudden cardiac death? - Sudden cardiac death (also called sudden arrest) is death resulting from an abrupt loss of heart function (cardiac arrest).
What causes sudden cardiac death? - Sudden cardiac death is usually caused by ventricular fibrillation. The risk for SCD is higher for anyone with heart disease.
Who's at risk of sudden cardiac death? - Underlying heart disease is nearly always found in victims of sudden cardiac death. The risk for SCD is higher for anyone with heart disease.
What're the treatments for sudden cardiac death? - When sudden cardiac death occurs, the first treatment is to establish the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. The next priority is to restore normal rhythm to the heart.
Can sudden cardiac death be prevented? - The goal of primary prevention is to decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death in those who have never had an event.
How can survive recurrent cardiac arrest? - Survivors of unexpected cardiac arrest (aborted sudden cardiac death) due to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation are at risk for recurrent arrest.
What is cardiac arrest?
- A cardiac arrest is the cessation of normal circulation of the blood due to failure of the ventricles of the heart to contract effectively during systole.
What causes cardiac arrest? - The most common underlying reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease.
What are cardiac arrest symptoms? - Cardiac arrest symptoms include loss of consciousness, no breathing, no pulse. Prior to cardiac arrest, symptoms or warning signs include chest pain, weakness, feeling faint.
How is cardiac arrest diagnosed? - The state of cardiac arrest is diagnosed in an unconscious (unresponsive to vigorous stimulation) person who does not have a pulse.
What're the treatments for cardiac arrest? - Emergency medical technicians will quickly confirm a cardiac arrest and defibrillate the victim by sending an electrical shock through the chest.
Heart & cardiovascular disorders Mainpage

Topics in heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary circulation disorders
Myocardium disorders
Heart valve disorders
Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
Heart inflammation and infection
Congenital heart disease
Valvular disease (blood vessels disorders)
Procedures done for coronary artery disease
Devices used in cardiology
Diagnostic tests and procedures for heart diseases
Heart transplant

Featured articles on heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary artery disease
Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
Cardiac arrhythmia
Heart valve replacement
Congestive heart failure
Aortic aneurysm
Atrial fibrillation

All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005