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Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is unpredictable, often striking people who have had no previous symptoms. It can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.
SCA is the leading cause of death in America, killing more than 330,000 people per year.
SCA occurs when the electrical impulses that trigger the rhythmic beating of the heart are disrupted. An abnormal, chaotic, quivering heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation results. Ventricular fibrillation causes the heart’s contractions to become ineffective and the forward flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and lungs stops.
During Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the patient will lose consciousness and stop breathing. If a normal rhythm is not restored with a few minutes, death will certainly occur
Bystanders who recognize a cardiac arrest, contact Emergency Medical Services (911), provide compression only CPR, and use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available, can significantly increase the chance of the patient’s survival.
What about preventing and planning for SCA?
Because Sudden Cardiac Arrest can occur without warning, prevention can play a large role in survival. Be sure to have regular checkups, be screened for heart disease, and live a heart-healthy lifestyle:
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Embrace physical activity.
If an adult suddenly collapses, is unresponsive and not breathing, by performing immediate continuous chest compressions, you can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.
Studies continue to show that compression only CPR is as effective for rescuing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims as conventional CPR that includes compressions and rescue breathing.
What is Compression Only CPR?
For sudden cardiac arrest, recent studies1-2 have established the use of compression only CPR as an alternative to conventional CPR, which combines chest compressions and rescue breaths. The immediate use of continuous chest compressions for a witnessed sudden collapse of an adult patient could significantly increase the chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.
It is important to note that compression only CPR is not recommended for children and infants, adults discovered unresponsive, and non-heart-related arrests such as drowning victims, and persons suffering from a drug overdose.
By eliminating the apprehension associated with doing rescue breaths, compression only CPR may encourage more bystanders to take action and attempt CPR when an adult collapse is witnessed. A patient who is unresponsive and not breathing has no chance for survival without help. Nothing the bystander can do can possibly harm the patient further.
Regardless of the approach, high-quality chest compressions with as few interruptions as possible help keep blood pumping from the heart to the lungs and brain, increasing the odds of successful resuscitation.
Once started, either approach to CPR needs to be provided with minimal interruption until another provider takes over; the patient responds; an AED is available for use; or EMS providers can take over.