Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating due to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. The malfunction that triggers SCA is a life-threatening abnormal rhythm, or arrhythmia. The most common type of arrhythmia that leads to SCA is ventricular fibrillation (VF).
Defibrillation is the only treatment for sudden cardiac arrest. Because sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system, only an electric shock from a defibrillator can restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
Though vital, CPR is not enough. CPR forces blood through the body and vital organs, and should be used until a defibrillator arrives at the scene and in conjunction with a defibrillator.
During sudden cardiac arrest a victim loses consciousness, stops normal breathing and loses pulse and blood pressure.
Unfortunately, SCA is unpredictable and can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Risk increases with age, but many victims are teenagers.
While pre-existing heart disease is a common cause of cardiac arrest, many victims never encounter heart problems before experiencing SCA.
Only 5-10 percent of people survive SCA without immediate treatment. However, areas with successfully-implemented AED programs have seen survival rates of about 50 percent. When an SCA victim receives help within three minutes of sudden cardiac arrest, survival rates increase even more.
After experiencing SCA, a person’s chance of survival without medical attention decreases 10 percent each minute. The average response time for emergency medical services is 6 or more minutes.
“The single most-determining factor of surviving SCA is how quickly and AED arrives on the scene and a shock is administered to the victim.” – Floyd Larkin