What is a sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happens when the heart suddenly stops beating because of a problem in its electrical system.It will happen without any warning signs. The person will collapse, lose consciousness and look extremely pale. Treatment to defibrillate, or shock, the heart and get it beating normally again is needed immediately for the person to have a fighting chance to survive.

SCA is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, which affects the electrics of the heart. This causes the heart to beat ineffectively. The most common arrhythmia that causes SCA is ventricular fibrillation. The simplest way to identify arrhythmias is to know your pulse. If your heart beat is too fast, too slow, or irregular, you should seek medical advice from your GP.

How many people die from sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is the UK's biggest killer. Some 100,000 people die every year*. This is more than breast cancer, lung cancer and AIDS combined.

Who does it affect?

Anyone, anywhere, at any time could suffer cardiac arrest, regardless of age, fitness or any other factors.

Is sudden cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

No. A heart attack is caused by a plumbing problem with the heart, such as a blocked artery. Many people experience symptoms prior to a heart attack and remain conscious.

A sudden cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical problem with the heart. The person often has no symptoms and loses consciousness immediately. Every second is crucial in trying to save their life.











What is an AED?

AED stands for automated external defibrillator. The portable device can be used by anyone to shock a person's heart back into normal rhythm in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs use voice prompts to instruct a person how to use them. They will only deliver an electric charge if a schockable heart rhythm is identified.

There are several AEDs available with various features (pictured). Contact us to discuss which AED is appropriate for you.




Do I need training?

No. Anyone can use an AED. The device talks the person using it through the entire process. Remember all clothing should be removed, including undergarments (especially underwired bras) because these can interfere with the electrical signal. Find out how to use an AED here.

Can I do harm with an AED?

Again no. The devices detect the heart rhythm of a person and they only administer a shock if one is required.

Are AEDs really necessary?

Early defibrillation has a dramatic impact on a person's chances of survival. With just CPR, there is a 5% chance of surviving but with CPR and an AED this goes up to 50%. For every minute without defibrillation the chances of survival go down 10%. That is why it is so important AEDs are available whenever they are needed.

Where should AEDs be?

In short, any public place. When a person suffers a cardiac arrest the clock is ticking and every minute counts. So, a defibrillator should be accessible to all communities to increase chances of survival.

Why are cabinets important?

Cabinets for AEDs ensure the defibrillator is weather-proof and secure. It is protected by a pin code, which is available from the emergency services when you call 999.

The cabinets are visible in public places so they will stand out. This means the AED is more likely to be used in the event of an emergency.




Can I speak to others who have experienced the same as me?

If you have been affected by SCA in any way, you are not alone. Whether you survived cardiac arrest or you know someone who wasn't so lucky, join our 'Sudden Cardiac Arrest & Heart Attack' forum to share your story, ask questions and support each other. Find out more here.

How can I get in touch with you?

Find out how you could contact us here.


*Source: Department of Health and British Medical Journal

Get in touch for more help and information

+44 (0) 1789 867 501info@heartrhythmalliance.org


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