Sudden cardiac arrest happens without a warning, bringing the heart to a standstill. It occurs because of erratic heart beats triggered by an electrical malfunction which stops the heart from pumping blood to the body.
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) leads to sudden death if not intervened within the first 6 minutes. The human heart beats at 60-100 beats per minute and any fluctuation in this rate, either too slow or too fast is referred to as cardiac arrhythmia. Therefore, those experiencing a sudden increase in heart rate or those who are genetically prone to heart diseases can experience a fatal arrhythmia.
The first 6 minutes of sudden cardiac arrest are the most important. If cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is started within the first six minutes of the incident, the chances of survival increases to more than twice, in the absence of which the patient may not survive. CPR involves putting the hands on the chest of the affected person and pumping it as if the heart is pumping the blood to the brain. Survival is possible with fast, appropriate medical care.
Heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are the most common types of cardiovascular diseases and most people are unable to differentiate between the two conditions. A heart attack occurs when the blood vessels that are supplying oxygen to the heart are blocked resulting in chest pain. A sudden cardiac arrest, on the other hand, happens when erratic heartbeats stop the heart, leading to sudden death.
A heart attack is a ‘circulation’ problem while a sudden cardiac arrest is an ‘electrical’ problem. More than 95% patients do not survive from sudden cardiac arrest. The patient must meet their cardiac electrophysiologist, and a risk stratification is done to identify if the patient is at risk of sudden cardiac arrest and needs device intervention.
Usually the treatment for SCA involves either of the two treatments:
ICDs (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator): This is a small machine like 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 on detecting any abnormality, sends a powerful shock to the heart muscle to restore normal rhythm. An ICD can be used by patients who have survived sudden cardiac arrest and who are at risk of SCA and need their heart rhythms constantly monitored.
Interventional surgeries: This works best for patients with coronary heart disease and involves procedures such as an 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 and Device implantation.
Risk of sudden cardiac arrest can be reduced by getting regular check-ups, being screened for heart diseases, and living a heart-healthy lifestyle.