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Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? Know Warning Signs, Causes, Treatment And More

Symptoms for SCA: Sudden cardiac arrest is an emergency in which the heart stops functioning, the lack of oxygenated blood can lead to brain damage or death in a few minutes. Read here to know everything about sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? Know Warning Signs, Causes, Treatment And More

Discomfort in the chest can be a sign of sudden cardiac arrest


  1. Sudden Cardiac Arrest often leads to chest pain and breathlessness
  2. Regular exercise is important for a healthy heart
  3. A healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent the risk

Do you know someone who has suffered and survived a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)? Are you aware that SCA, if not managed and treated on time can be fatal and cost you your life? SCA can lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD) which is one of the leading natural causes of mortality worldwide. According to the Cleveland Clinic, SCD accounts for nearly 50 percent of deaths from heart diseases. However, unlike the term, sudden cardiac arrest

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

SCA like its name denotes the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. It is caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart due to which the pumping action is disrupted, hindering the flow of blood to the body. Time is very critical in the case of SCA because when the heart stops functioning, the lack of oxygenated blood can lead to brain damage or death in a few minutes. Therefore, while helping an unconscious person, time is of utmost importance.

What causes sudden cardiac arrest?

The most common cause of SCA is arrhythmia which is manifested through irregular or abnormal heartbeats due to a problem in the electrical system of the heart. The heart's electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat and any hindrance in this normal rhythm can cause an arrhythmia. Apart from this, certain other conditions like coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, heart attack, valvular heart disease, or an enlarged heart can also trigger SCA.

How do you identify a sudden cardiac arrest?

The symptoms of SCA are sudden and drastic and occur without any warning. These include:

  1. Loss of pulse
  2. Loss of consciousness
  3. Discomfort in the chest
  4. Fainting
  5. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  6. Weakness
  7. Loss of breath
  8. Palpitations
  9. Sudden collapse
  10. Unexplained wheezing

Sudden cardiac arrest can cause loss of breath and consciousness
Photo Credit: iStock

Managing sudden cardiac arrest

It is possible to manage SCA with fast and appropriate medical intervention for survival. The first and most critical step is to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator (devices that restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart) or through chest compressions. This can help improve the chances of survival till proper medical help arrives.

Treatment options for sudden cardiac arrest

ICDs (Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator): This is a small machine similar to a pacemaker that can help manage and correct arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm. The device also helps in constant monitoring of the heart rhythm and in detecting any abnormality, sending a powerful shock to the heart muscle to restore normal rhythm. An ICD can be used by patients who have survived SCA and need their heart rhythms constantly monitored. It can also be combined with a pacemaker to treat other underlying irregular heart rhythms

Interventional procedures or surgeries: This is suitable for patients with coronary heart disease and involves procedures such as angioplasty (repairing the blood vessels) or bypass surgery for improving the flow of blood to the heart muscle. For patients with cardiomyopathy or congenital heart disease also, an interventional procedure may be required. Those suffering from arrhythmia can undergo procedures such as catheter ablation and electrical cardioversion.

Is sudden cardiac arrest really sudden?

SCA is often preceded by warning signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, etc. Most people experience these symptoms, hours before suffering an SCA. Also, in a lot of cases, where the patient has an existing heart condition that can trigger SCA, he or she should be careful about maintaining heart health and monitoring it regularly to prevent adversities. Those who have survived an SCA can be affected by it again. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of the warning signs and seek medical consultation immediately after experiencing any of them. Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle also goes hand in hand with awareness for preventing heart diseases like SCA.

(Dr. Jayaprakash Shenthar, Consultant Electrophysiologist, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore)

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