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What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when a person's heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. It is usually fatal. There are many inherited conditions that are known to cause SCA; these may involve abnormal heart or vessel structure and/or heart rhythm. Sometimes it is not possible to identify the cause of a SCA. Most SCAs are the first obvious symptom a person has, although famly members, in retrospect, may remember the victim complaining of warning signs such as irregular heartbeats, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sudden nausea, or unusal fatigue. Individuals with a family history of sudden cardiac arrest may have an inherited condition that puts them at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. A doctor's evaluation of personal and family history is the best way to begin to identify and treat those at risk.

A person having a SCA needs immediate treatment, following the American Heart Association's "Chain of Survival" that includes early recognition of SCA, early call to 9-1-1, early CPR, early use of AED, and early EMS advanced life support.

Chain of Survival

Every minute that passes without intervention drastically reduces the chance of survival!

The following questions target signs of inherited conditions that cause SCA.

Suggested personal and family history questions from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Appendix F
American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics et al. Preparticipation Physical Evaluation. Fourth Edition. 2010.

Learn additional information on the following conditions:

Kawasaki disease, SIDS, Marfan Syndrome, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, short QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, cateholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia

For more information about SCA and SCDY, please see the following links:

Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young: Working together to Raise Awareness and Prevent SCDY (video) Greg Holzman, MD, MPH.

Identification and Treatment of Sudden Cardiac Death Conditions in Young Patients. (presentation) David Bradley, MD.

Identification Genetic Risk in Surviving Family Members. (presentation) Angela Trepanier, MS, CGC.

Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young: Epidemiology. (presentation) Beth Anderson, MDHHS Genomics Epidemiologist.

MDHHS Heart Disease and Family Health History Fact Card

"Can Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young Be Prevented? A Michigan Story on Lessons Learned and Action Steps to Take." (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association Factsheet

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

American Heart Association

CDC podcast: How to help someone who is having a sudden cardiac arrest

AHA - Difference between sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack