What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

By Dr. Mahesh Pr Agrawala* 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating due to abnormality in electrical impulse. This abnormal electrical impulse may be very rapid quivering of ventricle (vent fibrillation) or no heart beat at all (asystole).

If not treated immediately it may lead to fatality due to stoppage of blood supply to brain and lungs.

Worldwide SCA is responsible for approximately 7 million deaths every year. This is equivalent to 1–2 deaths per 1000 population.

Is it same as Heart Attack?

“Heart attack” is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While heart attack may cause cardiac arrest, the two aren’t the same.

Heart attacks are caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart muscle leading to death of heart muscle. It’s a “circulation” problem. By contrast, cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. The heart stops beating properly. The heart’s pumping function is “arrested,” or stopped.

What happen during SCA?

  • Collapse and fall
  • Lose consciousness
  • No pulse
  • No breath or breath abnormally (gasp for air)

Who are at risk?

There are many that can increase a person’s risk of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.

The leading risk factors include:

  • Previous heart attack (75 percent of SCA cases are linked to a previous heart attack). A person’s risk of SCA is higher during the first six months after a heart attack.
  • Heart failure – a condition in which the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. Patients with heart failure are 6 to 9 times more likely than the general population to experience sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a thickened heart muscle that especially affects the ventricles.
  • Prior episode of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Family history of sudden cardiac arrest or SCA.
  • Personal or family history of certain abnormal heart rhythms, including long QT syndrome, WPW syndrome, extremely low heart rates or heart block.
  • Congenital heart disease.
  • Significant changes in blood levels of potassium and magnesium, even if there is no organic heart disease.
  • Recreational drug abuse.

What to do?

Sudden cardiac arrest should be treated immediately. Survival can be as high as 90 percent if treatment is initiated within the first minutes. The rate decreases by about 10 percent each minute longer. Immediate CPR should be started till the defibrillator is available.

A defibrillator is a device that sends an electric shock to the heart. The electric shock can restore a normal rhythm of heart. To work well, it needs to be done within minutes of the SCA.

How to prevent it?

Once patient had one episode of cardiac arrest, chances are high that he may experience SCA again. To prevent it, cause of cardiac arrest should be found out and treated according to that who have ischemic heart disease, should be treated properly with medication and if they require angioplasty or CABG should be done as early as possible. Heart failure patients should be properly managed with medication.

Maintaining healthy heart lifestyle like, regular exercise, avoiding stress, taking low fat and low carbohydrate diet, quitting smoking and tobacco and managing high BP and diabetes will reduce the risk of SCA in ischemic heart disease patient.

Those who are having dilated heart with weak heart muscle, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy require automated implantable cardiac defibrillator.


For any health related query, call Central Helpline Number: 0674 6666600

The writer is a Senior Consultant, Interventional Cardiologist at AMRI Hospitals in Bhubaneswar.




DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.


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