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Sudden Cardiac Death (Cardiac arrest)

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) also known as sudden cardiac arrest is an unexpected and sudden death caused by loss of heart function. Sudden cardiac arrest is often mistaken with a heart attack (myocardial infarction), but these are two different conditions. Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage in one or more of the arteries leading to the heart which inhibits the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood causing damage to the heart.

In contrast, sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions and suddenly becomes very irregular. The heart starts to beat very fast causing the ventricles to flutter or quiver and as a result blood is not delivered to the body. In the first few minutes, the blood flow to the brain is reduced so drastically that a person may lose consciousness. A person may die unless emergency treatment is begun immediately.

Treatments for this condition are

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): Emergency treatment for a person suffering from a cardiac arrest includes CPR. It is a manual technique using repetitive pressing to the chest and breathing into the person's airways that keeps enough oxygen and blood flowing to the brain until the normal heart rhythm is restored with an electric shock to the chest.
  • Medications: To reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, drugs like ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers are prescribed.
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): It is a small device which is placed under the skin just below the collarbone to send electrical signals to the heart when it goes very fast. It is also helpful in regulating heartbeat. When this device detects a very fast or slow heart rhythm, it sends a small, but powerful shock to the heart muscle causing the heart to beat in a normal rhythm again.