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Sudden Cardiac Arrest: It Can Happen Anywhere

September 29, 2020

All AEDs are not created equal. Today’s smartest models incorporate high-tech monitoring that lets rescuers focus more on the victim if the unthinkable happens.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest, or SCA, is a leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, over 350,000 people of all ages experience SCA annually outside of a hospital setting each year. Nine out of 10 victims die. However, in cases where bystanders intervene immediately and give CPR, survival rates double or even triple. That’s why it’s important to understand what SCA is, the warning signs and how to respond to an SCA event.

How is SCA different from heart attacks?

Many people think heart attack and SCA are the same. They’re not. In fact, they’re quite different. A heart attack, more accurately known as myocardial infarction or MI, happens when part of the heart’s blood supply is reduced or blocked, damaging or killing heart muscle tissue. When this happens, the victim is awake, conscious, and usually complaining of one or more signs of a heart attack including chest pain or discomfort, pressure, arm pain, nausea and sweating, among others. Calling 911 is the best course of action in case of a heart attack so the patient is treated as quickly as possible.

SCA is significantly different from a heart attack. It occurs when the heart stops beating completely, causing the patient to suddenly lose consciousness and appear lifeless except for some possible gasping or seizure-like symptoms. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation likens heart attacks to “plumbing problems” due to blockages, while they describe SCA as an “electrical problem” preventing the heart from functioning due to congenital factors, severe heart failure, damage from past cardiac episodes, electrocution and drug overdoses. SCA victims are never awake and require immediate help, or they will die within minutes.

What actions can I take to save lives?

Have someone call 911 and immediately check for signs of life. If there aren’t any, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED). “This is lifesaving care that any layperson can provide,” says the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. “It is best to be trained in CPR and the use of AEDs, but even without formal training, the rescuer can push hard and fast on the victim’s chest and follow the directions on the AED, while waiting for EMS to arrive.”

For every minute that passes without a shock from an AED, the victim’s chances of survival decrease significantly. After a few minutes, it may be too late entirely. That’s why it’s important to do something, not nothing, and do it immediately, and an AED is a vital component in saving lives.

Why do I need an AED?

The American Heart Association describes AEDs as “lightweight, portable devices that deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can potentially stop an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).” By restoring normal heart rhythm, they also strengthen the chances of survival by a large margin.

But AEDs aren’t like fire extinguishers—some are better than others. The American Heart Association endorses models that incorporate monitoring of CPR parameters during resuscitation, calling it “arguably one of the most significant advances in resuscitation practice in the past 20 years and one that should be incorporated into every resuscitation and every professional rescuer program.”

A rescuer simply turns on the AED and follows visual or audible prompts for properly attaching adhesive electrodes and starting defibrillation. Microprocessors inside the AED unit analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and tell the rescuer whether a shock is needed. That shock stuns the heart and stops all activity to give it a chance to resume beating. Rescuers don’t have to worry about making a mistake either. AEDs are very accurate and only advise giving shocks for life-threatening conditions. They’re also very safe for the user as long as the simple directions are followed.

The American Heart Association offers CPR and AED training through training centers. To locate a training center near you, call your nearest AHA office or 1-888-AHA-4CPR. You may also visit this website.

How do I place and maintain an AED?

AEDs should be situated in highly visible public areas that are simple to spot and easy to access. Zoll, for example, provides a range of AEDs and accessories for trained medical professionals, dental offices, urgent care centers, nursing homes, and other out-of-hospital care facilities. Their clinically advanced, user-friendly AEDs help you respond quickly and effectively when sudden cardiac arrest occurs. Plus, because your AED needs to be ready the day you need it, not just the day you buy it, they offer PlusTrac™ AED program management software. It helps you track and manage consumable items such as pads and batteries, monitors the certification expiration dates of volunteer responders, and keeps track of your compliance with local AED regulations.

To learn more, discuss the right option for your office or schedule a demonstration, visit


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