WHAT IS SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. The condition usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to your body.
The heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. If something goes wrong, your heart can beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly (arrhythmia) in the lower chamber of your heart (Ventricle). Often these arrhythmias are brief and harmless, but rapid, erratic electrical impulses can cause your ventricles to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood (VF or ventricle fibrillation) leading to sudden cardiac arrest.
When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, reduced blood flow to your brain causes unconsciousness. If your heart rhythm doesn’t rapidly return to normal, brain damage occurs and death results. Survivors of cardiac arrest might show signs of brain damage. If not treated immediately, sudden cardiac arrest can lead to death. With fast, appropriate medical care, survival is possible. Giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator — or even just giving compressions to the chest — can improve the chances of survival until emergency workers arrive.
Sudden cardiac arrest signs and symptoms are immediate and drastic and include:
- Sudden collapse
- No pulse
- No breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Sometimes other signs and symptoms occur before sudden cardiac arrest. These might include:
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs with no warning.
In victims of SCA it is possible to re-establish normal sinus rhythm by means of an electric shock across the heart. This treatment is called defibrillation. It is a common misconception that CPR alone and calling emergency services is enough. CPR is a temporary measure that maintains blood flow and oxygen to the brain. CPR alone will not return a heart to a normal rhythm during VF. The key to survival is defibrillation – and the sooner the better. Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening arrhythmias, mainly ventricular fibrillation. Defibrillation consists of delivering an electrical shock to the heart with a device called a defibrillator. This restores normal heart muscle contractions and allows normal sinus rhythm to be restored by the body’s natural pacemaker in the heart.