FAQ: Sudden Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack
1. What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest means that the heart abruptly and unexpectedly quits beating which is usually caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.
2. Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest the same as a heart attack?
No…Contrary to common belief… 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 sudden cardiac arrest. However, sudden cardiac arrest may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. Sudden cardiac arrest results in death if not treated immediately.
3. What are the symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
The symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest are the following:
-Loss of consciousness
-Loss of pulse and blood pressure
4. What are the symptoms of a Heart Attack?
The symptoms of a Heart Attack are the following:
-Chest Pains – uncomfortable pressure, tightness of the chest
-Pain in the arms, neck, and shoulder
5. How is Sudden Cardiac Arrest treated?
The only effective treatment for Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) 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 ventricle fibrillation 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.
6. How is a Heart Attack treated?
A Heart Attack is most effectively treated by emergency responders. Lay responders can assist the victim until the emergency responders arrive by having the Heart Attack victim chew some aspirin and drink a whole glass of water if they are conscious. If the victim is unconscious, lay the victim on his or her back and make sure nothing obstructs his or her airway. If the victim becomes unconscious, it is possible for him or her to go into sudden cardiac arrest. CPR may need to be administered if the Heart Attack victim loses his or her heart pulse. In this situation if the pulse has stopped, then a defibrillator may be used if necessary.
7. What is an Automated External Defibrillator or AED?
An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmia of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient, and is able to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. An AED is a device which can save a victim that suffers from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
AEDs are designed to be simple to use for the layman, and the use of AEDs is taught in many first aid, first responder and basic life support (BLS) level CPR classes.