What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 300,000 people each year. That’s more than the total death rate for breast cancer, lung cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. During SCA, heart function ceases abruptly and without warning. When this occurs, the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body, and in over 90% of victims, death occurs. This is usually caused when the electrical impulses in the affected heart become rapid (ventricular tachycardia, or “VT”) or chaotic (ventricular fibrillation, or “VF”), or both. These irregular heart rhythms are arrhythmias. The general public and media often mistakenly refer to SCA as a “massive heart attack.”
SCA is an electrical problem, whereby the arrhythmia prevents the heart from pumping blood to the brain and vital organs. There is an immediate cessation of the heart. In most cases, there are no warning signs or symptoms. A heart attack is a “plumbing” problem caused by one or more blockages in the heart’s blood vessels, preventing proper flow, and the heart muscle dies. Symptoms include chest pain, radiating pain in left arm, between shoulder blades, and/or jaw, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and sweating. In some cases, a heart attack may lead to a sudden cardiac arrest event.
Who is at risk of SCA?
SCA can strike persons of any age, gender, race, and even those who seem in good health. Many patients who may be at risk are not being identified, screened and given options for medical treatment. If someone has any of the following risk factors or symptoms, he/she should discuss with a doctor whether further heart testing and/or evaluation by an electrophysiologist (EP) or cardiologist is necessary:
History of early heart disease, heart attack or cardiac death in the family
Unexplained fainting or near fainting or palpitations
Chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting with exertion (such as during sports)
Heart failure or heart attack
Weak heart muscle or a cardiac ejection fraction (EF) of less
than 40% (EF refers to the percentage of blood that is
pumped out of the heart’s main pumping chamber
during each heartbeat)
• Cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure,
diabetes, obesity, smoking, or high cholesterol
What is an AED?
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device used to administer an electric shock to the heart and restore the heart's normal rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest. Ventricular Fibrillation (VF), the abnormal heart rhythm that most often leads to sudden cardiac arrest, is treatable. If the heart can be shocked quickly with an AED, a normal heart rhythm may be restored.
An AED consists of a small computer (microprocessor), electrical circuitry, and adhesive electrode pads. The electrodes collect information about the heart's rhythm. The microprocessor interprets the rhythm. If the heart is in ventricular fibrillation, the microprocessor recommends a defibrillating shock. The shock is delivered by way of the electrode pads, through the victim's chest wall, and into the heart. The shock stuns the heart momentarily, stopping all activity. This gives the heart a chance to restart normal electrical activity and resume beating effectively.
While AED and CPR training are available and recommended for those responsible for managing a public access to defibrillation (PAD) program, training is not required to use an AED. These machines have voice prompts to easily assist a novice at successfully using the device. It is important for bystanders who witness the collapse of an SCA victim to act quickly. If a person does not need the shock of an AED, the machine will not deliver a shock. It is not possible to hurt someone with an AED; they can only be used to save someone’s life.
It is essential that defibrillation be administered immediately following the cardiac arrest. If the heart does not return to a regular rhythm within 5-7 minutes, this fibrillation could be fatal. If defibrillated within the first minute of collapse, the victim's chances for survival are close to 90 percent. For every minute that defibrillation is delayed, survival decreases by 7 percent to 10 percent. If it is delayed by more than 10 minutes, the chance of survival in adults is less than 5 percent.
What is the difference between SCA and a heart attack?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Heart Attack
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition that occurs when the heart stops pumping blood. Usually, this is caused by an electrical problem in the heart.
Occasionally, there is a mechanical problem where there may be a normal electrical signal; in turn the heart muscle fails to pump.
Sometimes SCA is caused by severe hemorrhage and other issues
A heart attack is caused by a circulation or plumbing problem of the heart, when one (or more) of the arteries delivering blood to the heart is blocked. Oxygen in the blood cannot reach the heart muscle, and the heart muscle becomes damaged.
This damage to the heart muscle can lead to disturbances of the heart's electrical system. A malfunction of the heart's electrical system may cause dangerously fast or slow heart rhythms that can cause SCA.
Many SCAs occur in patients with coronary heart disease. If the patient suffers a heart attack, there is a higher risk for SCA.
What is the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association?
The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (SCAA) was founded and incorporated in 2005. It is a nonprofit tax exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code. SCAA is an outgrowth of the pioneering work done by the National Center for Early Defibrillation (NCED), a unit of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
SCAA carries forward the original mission of NCED to broaden public access to early defibrillation and has expanded its efforts to include public awareness of SCA, its prevention and treatments for those at risk, and advocacy for a wide range of issues related to SCA.
How did the local chapter get started?
The Gateway Chapter, covering Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois, just became official on Jan. 20. The group first gathered in June during the celebration of 2009 National CPR & AED Awareness Week. American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter hosted a Celebration of Life Survivor Birthday Party! In such a short time, this group has become friends and has developed a closeness, like they have known each other for years-all tied together as a result of a common life-changing experience—brought back to life by the use of an AED.
The group has gathered two additional times since the party in June. In November, the decision was made to start the process to become a local Chapter under the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. To kick off the new decade, the Gateway Chapter hopes to reach out to the community to spread the word about SCA and the impact it can have on individuals, their families and friends. Plus, we hope to promote the need for more people to be trained in CPR and to use an AED. Those in our group that are survivors are only alive today because an AED was available to shock the heart back in to a normal rhythm.
What are the goals of the Gateway Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association?
Our first goal is to let people in our community know that our group exists, especially for SCA Survivors who might appreciate the connection and support from other SCA Survivors.
Our second goal is to raise awareness of the importance of AEDs and inform the public that with more AEDs in more public places, schools, churches & workplaces, the chances of survival could increase from about 7% to 80%-reducing death and disability from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
Automatic External Defibrillators (AED)
and Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
Striking without warning, Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) kills nearly 900 Americans
each day, making it one of the nation’s leading causes of death, striking more than
325,000 victims each year.
More people die from SCA than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, house fires, hand
guns, traffic accidents and AIDS combined.
SCA can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere and sometimes in extreme conditions.
When SCA strikes, seconds count. Every passing minute before treatment, decreases chances of survival by about 10 %.
Most SCA cases are, in fact, treatable. But only 5% of sufferers in the United
States survive because the time to treatment is too long. The hope is with the quick
availability of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the hands of those who arrive first on the scene, initial treatment will be quicker.
It is estimated that an additional 40,000 lives could be saved each year in the U.S. alone
with widespread access to defibrillators.