Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) simply means that the heart unexpectedly & abruptly quits beating. This is usually caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).
No. A heart attack is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, resulting in the death of the heart muscle. Heart attack victims usually (but not always) experience chest pain and usually remain conscious. Heart attacks are serious and sometimes will lead to SCA. However, SCA may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. SCA results in death if not treated immediately.
While the average age of SCA victims is about 65, SCA is unpredictable and can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.
VF is an abnormal heart rhythm often seen in SCA. This rhythm is caused by an abnormal and very fast electrical activity in the heart. VF is chaotic and unorganized; the heart just quivers and cannot effectively pump blood. VF will be short lived and deteriorate to asystole (a flat line) if not treated promptly.
The only effective treatment for VF is an electrical shock called defibrillation. Defibrillation is an electrical current applied to the chest. The electrical current passes through the heart with the goal of stopping the VF and giving an opportunity for the heart’s normal electrical system to take control. This current helps the heart reorganize the electrical activity so it can pump blood again. An automated external defibrillator (AED) can defibrillate the heart.
An AED is a device that analyzes and looks for shockable heart rhythms, advises the rescuer of the need for defibrillation and delivers a shock if needed.
When used on people who are unresponsive and not breathing, the AED is extremely safe. The AED makes shock delivery decisions based upon the victim’s heart rhythm, and will only defibrillate a shockable rhythm.
The steps for shocking an SCA victim are simple and straightforward. The AED Plus® provides visual and audio prompts required for the entire resuscitation process. The most difficult part is recognizing the need for defibrillation.
Do CPR only until the AED arrives. Apply the electrode pads to the victim's bare chest and follow the voice prompts and messages of the AED. It will tell you when to resume CPR.