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Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. SCA usually causes death if it's not treated within minutes.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.

SCA usually causes death if it's not treated within minutes.

Overview

To understand SCA, it helps to understand how the heart works. The heart has an electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. Problems with the heart's electrical system can cause irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.

There are many types of arrhythmias. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the body—these arrhythmias cause SCA.

SCA is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs if blood flow to part of the heart muscle is blocked. During a heart attack, the heart usually doesn't suddenly stop beating. SCA, however, may happen after or during recovery from a heart attack....Read more about Sudden Cardiac Arrest
NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Should patients experiencing sudden cardiac death be cooled to lower their body temperature prior to or after admission to hospital?

We reviewed the current available evidence in order to answer the question of whether early cooling in people who receive basic life support for sudden cardiac death influences survival and brain damage compared to cooling that is started after their admission to hospital. Early cooling means the cooling of the person quickly by the ambulance staff, paramedics or doctors, in the field. We included seven studies meeting the Cochrane requirements in this review.

Amiodarone for preventing sudden cardiac death

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an important cause of death nowadays. People at high risk (mainly with any sort of heart disease) die unexpectedly from cardiac causes, primarily from arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat). The treatment of choice is a device called an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), but it is not widely available in low‐ or middle‐income countries. Amiodarone, an antiarrhythmic medication, might reduce the occurrence of these events and could be an alternative when an ICD is not available.

Assessment on Implantable Defibrillators and the Evidence for Primary Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death [Internet]

Implantable cardioverter–defibrillators (ICDs) are battery-powered implantable devices that monitor heart rhythm and deliver therapy in the form of either electric shock or antitachycardia pacing (ATP) when a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia is detected. ICDs have been used in patients who survived sustained ventricular arrhythmias to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD). In recent years, ICDs have also been implanted for primary prevention (prevention of SCD in a patient who has not had yet had sustained ventricular tachyarrhythmia but has risk factors for it). ICDs may also include cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) for additional treatment of heart failure in patients with dyssynchronous ventricles.

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Summaries for consumers

Should patients experiencing sudden cardiac death be cooled to lower their body temperature prior to or after admission to hospital?

We reviewed the current available evidence in order to answer the question of whether early cooling in people who receive basic life support for sudden cardiac death influences survival and brain damage compared to cooling that is started after their admission to hospital. Early cooling means the cooling of the person quickly by the ambulance staff, paramedics or doctors, in the field. We included seven studies meeting the Cochrane requirements in this review.

Amiodarone for preventing sudden cardiac death

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an important cause of death nowadays. People at high risk (mainly with any sort of heart disease) die unexpectedly from cardiac causes, primarily from arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat). The treatment of choice is a device called an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), but it is not widely available in low‐ or middle‐income countries. Amiodarone, an antiarrhythmic medication, might reduce the occurrence of these events and could be an alternative when an ICD is not available.

Cooling the body after resuscitation following cardiac arrest

In this review, we asked whether people resuscitated from cardiac arrest benefit when their bodies are cooled to a temperature of 34°C or lower.

See all (19)

Terms to know

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
A portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.
Cardiac
Having to do with the heart.
Cardiac Arrhythmia (Arrhythmia)
An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
An emergency procedure used to restart a person's heartbeat and breathing after one or both have stopped. It involves giving strong, rapid pushes to the chest to keep blood moving through the body. Usually, it also involves blowing air into the person's mouth to help with breathing and send oxygen to the lungs.
Heart
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.

More about Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Photo of an adult man

Also called: Cardiac arrest, Cardiac standstill

Other terms to know: See all 6
Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Cardiac, Cardiac Arrhythmia (Arrhythmia)

Related articles:
How the Heart Works

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