The small warnings before cardiac arrest

The small warnings before cardiac arrest

Monday, February 8, 2016
As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, some 1,000 Americans a day suffer sudden cardiac arrest, a catastrophic event that seems to come on without warning and almost always results in death unless help is nearby.   Now researchers say that the events may not always be so sudden.  A recent study analyzed 839 sudden cardiac arrests and found that in 430 cases (51 percent), patients exhibited warning signs (chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and heart palpitations)  in the four weeks before the arrest.  These findings reveal a “window of opportunity” for potentially preventing sudden cardiac arrests says Sumeet S. Chugh, associate director of the Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and senior author of the study.   
 
Sudden cardiac arrest is the result of an electrical storm in the heart that causes it to abruptly stop beating. It isn’t the same as a heart attack, which is caused by obstructions in the blood vessels that feed the heart.  However, a major heart attack can cause sudden cardiac arrest.  Rapid treatment with a defibrillator (a device that sends an electric shock to the heart) can be lifesaving.  “There is no other disease in man where you have a 90% chance of dying in 10 minutes” said Dr. Chugh.  
 
Not every incidence of chest pain or lightheadedness means sudden cardiac arrest.  To avoid overwhelming the nation’s 911 system with unnecessary calls, Dr. Chugh and his team are in the process of developing a clinical profile that would describe those who are most likely to benefit from making what could be a life-saving 911 call.
 
For more information about our region’s health, visit http://gulfcoastindicators.org/health.