Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is different from a heart attack.
Blood supply to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked, but the heart keeps beating, and damage to the heart muscle may occur. The heart’s electrical system flickers (think of how the lights flash before the power goes out), and the heart stops pumping blood. Sometimes, the person knows something is happening and can talk about their symptoms; in other situations, a pulse may not be found.
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen in people without heart disease. About 80% of cases are due to existing coronary artery disease. Those affected were unaware of their heart disease until they had a sudden cardiac arrest.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest by the Numbers
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest claims one life every 90 seconds.
- The likelihood of surviving is related to the speed of efforts to revive the heart. But half of the sudden cardiac arrest victims won’t have someone nearby to help.
- More than 420,000 Americans have an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest each year. About 10,200 are children; many appear otherwise healthy, and some are even athletes.
- Only about 10% of people survive. The odds of surviving are much higher if someone witnesses the event, calls 911 at once, starts CPR, and uses a device to shock and restart the heart.
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