• Sudden Cardiac Arrest/Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

  • Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart has stopped beating and blood is no longer being pumped throughout the body.

  • America's 100 Best Coronary Intervention The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is a disturbance in the heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. 

    What are the Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
    A person suffering SCA immediately loses consciousness. The affected person does not have a pulse and signs of breathing are not present.

    What are the Risk Factors?
    An individual may be at risk if he/she has a family history of heart disease, smokes, drinks too much alcohol, has high blood pressure or high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. The chance of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest is increased with age, especially after age 45 for men and 55 for women. A person may be at risk for SCA if he/she has or is currently experiencing any of the following:

    • Heart conditions/disease 
      • Coronary artery disease
      • Pulmonary valve stenosis
      • Congenital heart disease
      • Electrophysiological abnormalities
    • Previous episode of cardiac arrest
    • Previous heart attack
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Drug abuse

    Early Diagnosis and Screening

    Although sudden cardiac arrest cannot be anticipated, there are several steps and invasive and non-invasive tests to determine if someone is at risk:

    Invasive Tests:

    • Blood tests - Some of the tests that may be performed include cardiac enzyme, electrolyte, drug or hormone.
    • Intracardiac electrophysiological study (EPS) - An invasive test that allows the physician to determine the details of any abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmias .
    • Cardiac catheterization - A test usually performed to identify, diagnose and evaluate heart disease, heart defects or problems in the heart valves. This test is also used to study the function of the heart and obtain information about its chambers and vessels.

    Non-invasive Tests:

    • Electrocardiogram - Often referred to as an EKG, an electrocardiogram is a test that records the activity of the heart using small patches called electrodes. No electricity is sent through the body during this test, and there is no risk of shock. An EKG can diagnose heart disease including congenital heart disease in infants and myocardial infarction and myocarditis in adults.
    • Imaging tests - Some of the tests that may be performed include a chest X-ray, nuclear scan or an echocardiogram.


    While there are factors contributing to sudden cardiac arrest that cannot be controlled, there are preventative measures that can help reduce the chances of suffering sudden cardiac arrest:

    • Live a healthy, active lifestyle - Staying physically active and maintaining the proper weight for age and body type is important in heart health. At least 30 minutes a day of physical activity is recommended.
    • Keep a healthy weight - Eating a balanced diet with a focus on fresh foods and maintaining a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9.
    • Limit alcohol intake - Minimizing alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and two a day for men.
    • Do not smoke - Smoking increases the risk of heart disease.
    • Know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - A lifesaving procedure performed when a person's breathing or heartbeat have stopped. 

    Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

    An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a medical, mobile device used to check an individual's heart rhythm. An AED also recognizes when a person's heart rhythm needs a shock and advises the rescuer that the patient's heart needs a shock. Typically, an AED is used when a person suffers from cardiac arrest and the heart's activity is disrupted or unusually fast (ventricular tachycardia) or irregular (arrhythmia). A normal resting heart rate is 60 - 100 beats per minute.

    Today, AEDs may be found in common community locations including police and emergency vehicles, shopping centers, office buildings, sports arenas, schools and airplanes. Most cardiac arrests occur in private homes where AEDs are not readily available. Keeping an AED in private homes is greatly encouraged, as it has proven to save thousands of lives.

    How Does an AED Work?
    An AED is an emergency, portable device. It offers step-by-step voice-automated instructions to guide a user through the process. The rescuer places electrode pads on the person's chest, and the AED measures the heart rhythm. The AED will determine whether or not the patient's heart needs a shock. If the patient requires a shock, the AED will instruct the user to push the button that sends the shock. 

    Always Follow the Chain of Survival

    1. Call 9-1-1
    2. Begin Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
    3. Use an AED
    4. Receive advanced care - paramedic assistance

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