Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. In addition, if the heartbeat is not restored with an electrical shock immediately, death follows within minutes. SCA accounts for more than 350,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
SCA accounts for more than 350,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States each year. In fact, SCA claims one life every 90 seconds, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS. Unfortunately, 95 percent of people who experience SCA die as a result, mainly because treatment within minutes is not accessible.
Most people do not know the difference between SCA and a heart attack. Because time is crucial to saving someone who is having a sudden cardiac arrest, it is important to understand the difference.
The heart’s electrical system is what is affected when SCA occurs. During SCA, the heart stops beating and no blood is pumped to the rest of the body. This could be compared to losing electricity in your house. The heart “electricity” must be turned back on, typically through electrical shock.
A heart attack, typically known as a myocardial infarction (MI), affects the “plumbing” of the heart. A heart attack is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that interrupts the flow of blood causing an area of the heart muscle to die. This causes a “blood backup” in the heart, similar to a backup in a plumbing line in a house. The heart must be “unclogged,” with drug therapy or surgery, in order to continue the blood flow to the rest of the body.
While both cause serious problems and possible death, SCA often occurs abruptly and without warning. In fact, two-thirds of SCA deaths occur without any prior indications of heart disease, while heart attacks often have previous signs and symptoms.