FACTS ABOUT SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST
What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is when the heart rhythm becomes chaotic - it usually happens when there has been a distubance in your heart's pumping action and it prevents blood flowing to your brain and other vital organs. SCA will result in death if it is not treated within minutes of it occuring.
Is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest the same thing as a Heart Attack?
No - heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are NOT the same thing. A heart attack can LEAD TO or CAUSE a sudden cardiac arrest, but they are different physiological events.
A heart attack is usually due to the narrowing of one of the coronary arteries. This narrowing leads to reduced blood flow through the heart, which can cause numerous symptoms including chest pain, discomfort, shortness of breath, irregular heart beat, pain in jaw or throat, as well as exhaustion and anxiety. If a coronary artery becomes blocked and occludes the blood flow to the heart, then it could cause the heart to go into cardiac arrest - meaning that the heart will not be able to pump blood around the body, and stop beating in a functional way.
Cardiac Arrest may be caused by a number of contributing factors - some of which are beyond a person's control. There are a range of "electrical" conditions that can cause a sudden cardiac arrest, as well as heart disease leading to an SCA in the event of a 100% blockage of the artery. Some SCA's are "unexplained" and have no underlying, or predisposing cause.
How do you know if someone is having a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
The symptoms of a sudden cardiac arrest are IMMEDIATE - hence the use of the word "SUDDEN" in the name of the event. These symptoms include:
a) Sudden collapse
b) No breathing
c) Loss of consciousness
Who can suffer a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Anyone, anywhere at any time can suffer a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. There are risk factors that may predispose someone to being more at risk, but sometimes, there is no way of knowing. A person may look fit, healthy, and athletic, but they may still suffer an SCA.
Some of the risk factors include:
1) Family history of coronary artery disease or another form of heart disease/heart problems.
3) High blood pressure and cholesterol
4) Obesity and diabetes
5) Having a predominantly sedentary lifestyle
6) Drinking too much alcohol
7) Age - likelihood of SCA increases with age
8) Being male - men are two to three times more likely than women to suffer an SCA.
9) Having had a heart attack before
10) Using illegal drugs
11) Nutritional imbalances such as low potassium or magnesium levels.
How prevalent is SCA in Australia?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest kills around 27,000 Australians EACH YEAR - that is around 74 people per day dying from a cardiac arrest.
What is the survival rate from SCA?
The survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is only 10%. That means, that for every 1 person that survives an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, 9 DIE!
What factors can help increase survival of SCA?
Emergency response times (currently around 8-12 minutes in Australia) greatly affect the survival rate of SCA patients. If someone witnesses an SCA, the chance of surviving the SCA jumps to 23%. Other contributing factors will include how effective the Chain of Survival is - that is, how quickly the event is recognised, how rapidly EMS teams are called, how well CPR is performed, and whether or not there is a defibrialltor (AED) to revert the patient's heart rhythm if it can be shocked.
Why are AED's (defibrillators) so important?
CPR alone is unlikely to revive a patient who is in cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is usually the result of an electrical dysfunction within the heart, and some types of those dysfunctions (or arrhythmias) are what we call "shockable rhtyhms".
When a patient has a "shockable rhythm" it is vital that an AED is used quickly, because that "shockable rhythm" will deteriorate rapidly over time. For every minute that passes, the patient's chance of surviving decreases by around 10% - because the heart rhythm deteriorates over time to a rhythm called "asystole" which is a flat line - and this cannot be shocked by an AED.
The problem is that humans are unable to tell if a patient is in a shockable rhythm or not - they need electronic equipment to determine the patient's rhythm. That's where an AED comes into play, because it can read the patient's rhythm and make that determination.
If the heart is in a shockable rhythm, the AED will advise a shock be delivered to the patient.
Having an AED within 3 minutes of someone who experiences an SCA vastly increases that person's chances of survival.