Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

Woman was Technically Dead for Half an Hour

All she can remember was leaving the restaurant where she worked, but actually Ann Carlino drove herself to a hospital and collapsed outside the Emergency Room (ER) and when a policeman walked over to help her she took her last breath. Ann had suffered from sudden cardiac death (SCD), which strikes about 325,000 adults every year in the United States. Ann had no pulse, but the policeman and staff from the ER worked for almost half an hour to resuscitate her and brought her back to life.

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

The Defibrillator Gives an Electric Shock to the Heart to Start the Heart to Beat Again after

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) results from an electrical malfunction in the rhythm of the heart called an arrhythmia that causes the heart to beat extremely fast and the blood pressure to suddenly drop to a very low point. Sometimes the person will first get some symptoms like dizziness and a racing heart, but many times there is absolutely no warning whatsoever. Normally, even if someone is resuscitated back from sudden cardiac death, they can be left with considerable brain damage from the lack of blood flow to the brain during the time the heart stopped beating. Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, but it can occur during a heart attack. In the United States it is the largest cause of natural death and is the main cause of half of the deaths from heart disease. A heart attack results from a blockage to the blood flow going in to the heart and the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen to function properly. However, sudden cardiac death is an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat dangerously fast and the blood pressure to drop down to zero and unless there is instant emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the person dies. CPR has to be maintained until professional emergency help arrives to restore the normal heart rhythm with an electric shock to the chest (defibrillation).

Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Death

  • History of a previous heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Congenital heart problems
  • Ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation after a heart attack
  • Family history of abnormal heart rhythms
  • A previous sudden cardiac arrest
  • Blood vessel defects
  • Ejection fraction (EF) of less than 40% (Measurement of the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each heart beat)
  • Fainting spells from an unknown cause (syncope)
  • Heart failure
  • Problems with the muscles of the heart
  • Imbalance in the blood levels of potassium and magnesium possibly from diuretics
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Certain kinds of drugs that affect the rhythm of the heart
  • Drug abuse

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death

  • Quit smoking
  • Get enough physical exercise
  • Manage diabetes and other health conditions
  • Lose weight if overweight


Your doctor may also prescribe certain heart medications to prevent SCD such as:

  • Statins
  • ACE inibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Antiarrhythmics

The Need for Short or Long-term Rehabilitation

If brain damage has occurred during the time the heart stopped beating, there may be a need to go to a rehab to regain lost cognitive or motor skills.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York provides short and long-term rehabilitation therapy tailored to a patient’s individual needs and they have a team of excellent physical, occupational and speech therapists. Van Duyn also has very rich recreational  activities.


Sudden cardiac arrest shows that there is a need for people to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as every second counts and by the time first responders arrive the person may already be dead unless CPR has already been initiated.



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