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Sudden Cardiac Arrest
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The American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world.
The Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) is a leading resource on cardiac pacing and electrophysiology. This specialty organization represents medical, allied health, and science professionals from more than 70 countries who specialize in cardiac rhythm disorders.
This is one of the National Institutes of Health and a very important information resource.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest. Its mission is to "raise awareness and support programs that give 'ordinary' people the power to save a life."
Episode number: 
1110

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen when there is an electrical problem in the heart. If quick action isn’t taken, a person can die in minutes. Fortunately when things suddenly went very wrong for Bob Schmit, his girlfriend was there to save his life. 

(Source: American Heart Association) Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear. Each year, more than 420,000 emergency medical services-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

Is a heart attack the same as cardiac arrest?

No. The term "heart attack" is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden death, the terms don't mean the same thing. Heart attacks are caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply, not necessarily resulting in the death of the heart attack victim.

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. In cardiac arrest death results when the heart suddenly stops working properly. This may be caused by abnormal, or irregular, heart rhythms (called arrhythmias).

A common arrhythmia in cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. This is when the heart's lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don't pump blood. Death occurs within minutes after the heart stops. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

Read an article highlighting the differences between cardiac arrest and heart attack.

Source: American Heart Association 

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