Sudden cardiac death is an abrupt, unforeseen death due to loss of heart function. It is the main cause of natural death every year.
Is it different from a heart attack?
Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack but can occur during one. A heart attack occurs if there is blockage in one or several arteries leading to the heart which diminishes the amount of oxygenated blood that the heart receives. In case the oxygen in the blood could not reach the heart muscle, the heart is damaged.
A sudden cardiac arrest occurs if the electrical system to the heart falters and becomes erratic abruptly. This results to a dangerously rapid heart rate. The ventricles might quiver or flutter and blood is not supplied to the body. In the initial minutes, the biggest concern is the reduced blood flow to the brain where the individual loses consciousness. Death occurs unless emergency care is started right away.
The immediate treatment for sudden cardiac arrest includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation.
CPR involves repetitive chest compression and breathing into the airways of the individual to maintain enough oxygen and blood flowing to the brain until the normal heart rhythm is restored using defibrillation.
Portable defibrillators are used by the emergency team while public defibrillators in public areas can be used on individuals experiencing cardiac arrest.
Indications of sudden cardiac arrest
Some individuals can experience symptoms such as a racing heart rate or dizziness. This will alert the individual that a possibly dangerous issue with the heart rhythm has started.
In some cases, though, however, sudden cardiac arrest can occur without any early symptoms.
Most cases are triggered by erratic heart rhythms or arrhythmias. The most dangerous type is ventricular fibrillation which is an erratic, disorganized firing of impulses originating from the ventricles. Once this occurs, the heart could not pump enough blood and death can occur in minutes if not treated.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on sudden cardiac death is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage sudden medical emergencies including sudden cardiac death, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are located in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.