What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? Everything to Know
Around 9 out of 10 people who experience sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital will die, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. When this happens, this is called sudden cardiac death.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest and how to treat a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
Other symptoms a person may display when they experience sudden cardiac arrest include:
- ineffective breathing
- either no pulse or breathing
- unresponsiveness to shaking or shouting
Some people experience symptoms in the hour before they experience sudden cardiac arrest. These can include:
Call the emergency services if somebody is in sudden cardiac arrest. It is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is crucial.
After you call the emergency services, check to see if there is an automatic external defibrillator (AED) available. Most AEDs include clear, easy-to-follow instructions for using them. Learn more about defibrillation.
After using the AED, or if no AED is available, begin CPR. This includes hands-only chest compressions. The American Heart Association recommends doing this to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive,” which they say can double or triple a person’s chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.
After receiving emergency medical attention for sudden cardiac arrest, you may receive treatment in the hospital.
Possible treatments you may receive in the hospital include:
- oxygen therapy, which can help you get enough oxygen into your lungs while you recover
- targeted temperature management, which involves protecting the brain by lowering your body temperature with cool pads
- extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, during which blood pumps through an artificial lung to add oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide before the blood returns to your body
You may require other treatments depending on the cause of sudden cardiac arrest. This can include medications and surgery.
A person may experience cardiac arrest from almost any heart condition, according to the American Heart Association.
Ventricular fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Ventricular fibrillation happens when the electrical signals cause the ventricles in your heart to quiver instead of pumping as they usually should.
- coronary heart disease
- heart attack
- coronary artery spasm
- congenital heart defect
- heart valve disease
- heart inflammation
- heart failure
There are certain factors that may trigger sudden cardiac arrest. These include:
- physical exercise or exertion, which accounts for around 2 in 20 cardiac arrests
- heavy alcohol use, which accounts for up to 3 in 20 cardiac arrests
- heavily drinking coffee, particularly if you do not regularly drink coffee
- severe emotional distress within the last month
- the flu within the last month
- recent use of cannabis, amphetamines, or cocaine
Contact your doctor if you have concerns about the risk factors or triggers of sudden cardiac arrest.
Get immediate medical help if somebody is in sudden cardiac arrest. Call the emergency services before using any available AED and performing CPR.
Contact your doctor if you have concerns about your heart health. Also, contact your doctor if you recently experienced sudden cardiac arrest and have questions about any treatments they put in place for you.
At the time of the sudden cardiac arrest, a first responder will check for a pulse. They will then use an AED and carry out CPR.
Once you are in the hospital, your doctor will carry out a physical examination and order tests to help with confirming the cause of sudden cardiac arrest.
Tests they may order include:
- blood tests
- imaging tests
- stress testing
- cardiac event monitoring
- electrophysiology study
- cardiac catheterization
Your doctor may also carry out genetic testing on both you and your family members. This is because certain genetic changes can increase your risk of cardiac arrest.
Your doctor can explain the tests that they order and answer any questions you may have.
Other possible complications of sudden cardiac arrest include:
If you experienced sudden cardiac arrest and have psychological distress, contact your doctor for advice. They can refer you to a mental health specialist.
Following your doctor’s treatment plan for any heart condition and making sure you attend your appointments can help you to stay on top of your heart health. This can help to reduce your risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Taking steps to look after your heart can also help reduce your risk of sudden cardiac arrest. These steps can include:
- eating heart-healthy foods
- maintaining a moderate weight
- getting regular exercise
- managing stress
- quitting smoking if you smoke
Contact your doctor for more advice about ways you can look after your heart.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating.
It is important to get immediate medical help if somebody goes into sudden cardiac arrest. Then, use any available AED and perform CPR.
Almost any heart condition can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Following your treatment plan, attending your appointments, and looking after your heart health can help reduce your risk of cardiac arrest.
Contact your doctor if you have concerns about your heart health. They can carry out tests to confirm the cause of your symptoms and advise on any treatments they recommend.