Death (Cardiac Arrest)
Cardiac Death (SCD), or Cardiac
Arrest, kills half of all people who die of heart disease, the Number
One cause of death in the United States, accounting for
more than 400,000 deaths each year. SCD is a catastrophe in which the
heart abruptly and without warning ceases to function. It is
particularly terrifying because it
kills its victims within minutes and often occurs in
outwardly healthy people who have no known heart disease.
No statistics are available for the exact
number of cardiac arrests that occur each year. It's estimated,
however, that more than 95
percent of victims die before reaching the hospital.
| Heart Attack, or myocardial
infarction (MI), is a "plumbing problem" caused by clogged or blocked
blood vessels that cut off the supply of blood to the heart.
The most common cause of SCD is a heart
rhythm disorder (arrhythmia)
called ventricular fibrillation
(VF). VF is an "electrical problem" in the heart.
Suddenly, the electrical signals that regulate the pumping action of
the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles)
become rapid and chaotic. The normal rhythmic contractions of the
ventricles stop, and the heart can't pump blood to the rest of the
body. The brain is starved of oxygen, and the individual loses
consciousness in seconds.
Without immediate emergency help, death
follows within minutes of an episode of ventricular fibrillation.
How Can More
Lives be Saved?
The best hope for saving the lives of
people who experience sudden cardiac arrest is delivery within minutes
of an electric shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm. The
treatment is called defibrillation
and may be administered with an emergency device called an external defibrillator,
which delivers a brief, high-energy shock through paddles or electrode
patches applied to the patient's chest.
Portable, automatic external
are now available that are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Many
cities now equip their police forces with these devices, and they are
increasingly available on airplanes and in public buildings.
For certain patients who are at particularly
high risk, implantable
cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are the most successful therapy to
prevent sudden cardiac death. ICDs are pacemaker-like
devices that are implanted under the skin.
ICD continually monitors the heart, and automatically delivers an
electric shock if it detects ventricular tachycardia (VT),
a rapid heart beat in the ventricles that often leads to ventricular
fibrillation and near-certain death.
Factors & Predicting Who is At Risk
Even with more widespread availability of defibrillators in public
places, hundreds of thousands of people will continue to die of cardiac
arrest. The best way to significantly reduce deaths is to identify
people who are at highest risk for cardiac arrest and take steps to
Cardiac arrest in News
Recreational drugs and heart problems - Over the past decade some
scientists have suggested adrenaline could do more harm than good.
There is some evidence it may damage the brain by reducing blood supply
to the head and could diminish the chances of survival. Same goes for
drugs used for recreational purposes like Enzyte, Viagra,
Consumers are advised to use safer alternatives to recreational drugs.