Glossary of Terms
What is sudden cardiac arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating effectively. SCA is a major cause of death in Manitoba. It can happen at any age. It can happen anywhere and anytime.
In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart no longer pumps blood to the brain. Without the oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood, brain cells begin to die within minutes, and death soon follows. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help maintain oxygenation and blood circulation, but unless defibrillation is performed quickly, survival is unlikely.
For a few minutes before the heart stops completely, it usually goes into a rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF), a fluttering of the heart muscle. During VF, it is often possible to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm with a device called an automated external defibrillator (AED). The AED analyzes the heart’s electrical activity through pads applied to the chest and determines if a shock is needed. The window of opportunity for using an AED is small. Defibrillation is more successful if performed within three minutes of the cardiac arrest. Studies show that the chances of survival decrease 7-10% with every minute that passes after the arrest. [Source]
Who is at risk?
There are no warning signs associated with SCA. It often affects those who have experienced previous episodes of SCA, heart attacks, or heart failure; but it can also strike someone with absolutely no history of heart problems.
How is SCA Treated
1. CPR should be performed immediately—while someone calls 911 and someone goes to get the AED—to keep the blood flowing through the body
2. Defibrillation to restore a normal rhythm to the heart
When a person is in cardiac arrest, the only way to correct the electrical rhythm of their heart is to provide an electric shock with an AED, which causes the heart to resume its natural rhythm.
Every minute counts
Medical attention must be administered as soon as possible after the victim collapses; the chances for survival decrease with every minute you wait.