Sudden Cardiac Death

Sudden Cardiac Death

What is it?

Sudden cardiac death is also called sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and heart function is lost along with breathing and consciousness. It is different than a heart attack, in which the heart may continue beating. Sudden cardiac death causes the heart muscle to die.

Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Like a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest almost always occurs from an underlying heart condition. Most cases sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a very fast heart beat or a cardiac arrest induced arrhythmia.

Other causes may be:

Sudden cardiac arrest symptoms are sudden and drastic. Symptoms include:

  • Fainting
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • No breathing
  • No pulse

Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs without warning. However, sometimes other warning signs and symptoms precede the sudden cardiac arrest which may include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadness
  • Fainting
  • Blackouts
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Vomiting

Because sudden cardiac arrest is so often linked to coronary artery disease, similar factors put you at risk for sudden cardiac arrest including:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Previous heart attack or episode of cardiac arrest
  • Age
  • Use of illegal drugs

Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it is fatal resulting in sudden cardiac death. Almost 95% die within minutes, however, with fast, appropriate, medical care, survival is possible.

Our Services (Tests, Procedures and Treatments)

Because sudden cardiac arrest happens quickly and without warning, it usually cannot be diagnosed when it is happening. But there are tests that doctors use to determine if patients are at risk which include:

Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency in which 9-1-1 should be called immediately. If available, treat immediately with a defibrillator, which is a device that sends an electrical shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm. If a defibrillator is not available, then cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be performed until an ambulance or other help arrives. The chest compressions given during CPR move a small amount of blood to the heart and brain, until a normal heartbeat can be restored.

Once at the hospital, treatment may include:

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular