Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
Related Terms: Heart Health, Heart Attacks
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can happen in any place, at any time and to anyone, no matter how old or young, and no matter how good or poor their health. Sudden cardiac arrest is a major American public heath issue. More than 350,000 Americans die from SCA every year; some reports cite that as many as 400,000 Americans will suffer from SCA each year. According to the Heart Rhythm Society, “SCA claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS.” The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation goes a step further and says; “Only 7-8.5% [of SCA victims] survive… In fact, the number of people who die each year from sudden cardiac arrest is seven times the number who die from breast cancer.”
SCA strikes suddenly and usually without warning. It occurs when the heart suddenly starts to “quiver” or beat rapidly and in an irregular, abnormal rhythm. This ventricular fibrillation (VF) inhibits proper blood flow to the body and the brain. If left untreated, VF can cause brain damage in as little as five minutes, and death in as short as ten minutes.
Knowing the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest is important; they are not the same thing! The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation describes each as follows:
Heart Attack: A “Plumbing Problem” - The person is awake and the heart is beating
Sudden Cardiac Arrest: An “Electrical Problem” - The person is NOT Awake and the heart is NOT Beating
The first signs of sudden cardiac arrest occur when a person suddenly collapses, loses consciousness and then stops breathing. Calling 9-1-1 and administering CPR are necessary first steps, but if the victim’s heart beat is not restored to a normal rhythm within the first few minutes of the collapse, CPR will not be enough to save the victim’s life.
CPR is important because it supplies oxygen to the brain and heart, but it cannot restart the heart. An AED (automated external defibrillator) needs to be used to restart or defibrillate the heart; defibrillation is the only way to re-establish a regular heartbeat. If VF is not stopped, only about seven percent of victims will survive. If an AED is used, survival rates have been shown to climb above fifty percent. Rates of survival can be even higher if an AED is used within the first three minutes of the sudden cardiac arrest. By increasing the survival rate from seven percent to twenty percent as many as 50,000 American lives could be saved each year if CPR and automated external defibrillation were used together.
It’s important to know that in 2010, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised their CPR and ECC (Emergency Cardiovascular Care) guidelines, changing the “A-B-C mantra (airway, breathing, circulation)” to “C-A-B (compressions, airway, breathing).” This article on the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation’s web site gives a great overview of the new AHA guidelines. To view the complete CPR and ECC 2010 guidelines, visit the American Heart Association’s web site. The site also provides links for AHA Instructors, Tools, First Aid and how to order a hard copy of the revised guidelines.
Sudden cardiac arrest may not be preventable (yet) but it is treatable. Having an AED in your home or workplace, like having fire extinguishers or smoke detectors, is essential in helping you protect your health and safety and that of your family, friends, coworkers, and patrons of your business.
Heart Attack vs. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
View a chart that summarizes the differences between a person having a heart attack and one who experiences sudden cardiac arrest.
Sales of Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, are steadily increasing as awareness spreads about their effectiveness in the event of a crisis. As the baby boomer population ages and cardiac arrest numbers go up, businesses and individuals are recognizing the importance of having an AED on hand, and the rising numbers of defibrillator sales is in direct correspondence to that recognition.
AED Cardiac Arrest Save
View an ECG strip from an actual AED save. In just two minutes and forty-nine seconds, the victim's heart is restored to a normal rhythm thanks to the quick response of volunteers and the use of an AED.
AED Early Defibrillation Program
Policies and procedures should be set in place to govern an early defibrillation program. It is the goal of this program to provide a rapid response to sudden cardiac arrest for employees and guests. It is the intent of this document to give the early defibrillation response team members general guidance in response to an incident of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The document is not intended to cover all circumstances involved in such emergencies. All early defibrillation response team members must operate within the parameters of this early defibrillation program.
AED Program Essentials
AEDs are just one aspect of a well planned first responder program. An AED program should be designed to ensure your facility will have an effective first responder team. It is also important to check your local regulations and state laws for requirements specific to your state. The major elements common to an affective AED program are listed.
The Chain of Survival
The Chain of Survival refers to a series of actions for treating victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Each link is critical to saving a victim of cardiac arrest. When implemented early in a cardiac event, the four-step process can improve chances of survival dramatically. Developed by The American Heart Association in 1990, the Chain of Survival has become the standard of care for cardiac victims. First responders should follow the four-step sequence in rapid succession.