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Cardiac Arrest Where Death Is Not Always So Sudden

Aug 17, 2007
We have seen it all before, the middle aged victim staggers and clutches his chest, slumps to the floor and expires. A common sight, extremely deadly and as such 20 percent of all deaths in the US apparently are due to sudden cardiac arrest. Such is the lethal effect of these attacks in that apparently barely 5 percent of all those who suffer from them survive.

The commonly held perception of these incidents is that like the name sudden cardiac arrest, is that they come out of the blue. However a more detailed study by German Researchers would indicate that they are actually more like real lightening in that they are usually preceded by clouds, rain, wind and storms.

The problem with analysing the whole incidence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest is that since they are generally fatal, it is impossible to be able to ask the victims or sufferers how they were feeling prior to the attack starting?

Attempts to interview witnesses, relatives or bystanders can occasionally help but when by and large this carried out at least a few days or weeks later it means that results can be slightly suspect.

Researchers from the University of Berlin have tried to circumvent this delay by interviewing Doctors who have worked as part of the various emergency response teams within the city. The Doctors recorded where the arrest happened, whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was started and any other salient information that they could remember. The results of these investigations actually painted a more complex picture of sudden cardiac arrest which is more troubling.

In results from two thirds of the incidences, someone heard or saw the victim collapse. By and large that someone also happened to be a family member since 75 percent of these incidences occurred at home.

The warning signs reported were surprisingly common amongst those witnessed. The majority of these were chest pain, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting. Some of these warning signs were experienced in some cases hours before the arrest.

Apparently in 90 percent of these cases the warning signs lasted for at least five minutes and the most telling fact of all was that in 25 percent of all cases the victims had what is called true out of the blue attacks that were not preceded by any symptoms.

The bottom line is that although Sudden Cardiac Arrest would appear to be the first sign of Heart Disease, in reality most victims would already have displayed certain symptoms of cardiovascular problems already. This was apparently born out by the results of this study.

Again, apparently, two thirds of the victims whose cases were studied in this exercise had already been diagnosed with Heart Disease, also had survived a previous Cardiac Arrest or had Angina or other signs of heart disease.

One sad finding within all of the findings in this study was the fact that of those who had sudden cardiac arrests at home only 11 percent had any form of resuscitation started at home compared to 26 percent of those who suffered attacks in public.

The obvious point to be made here was that you are more likely to find some professional trained in CPR whilst out in public than you are at home. Whilst this may be on the slightly obvious side of findings for a survey such as this, the overall findings relating to this survey i.e. the fact that whole concept of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest being not necessarily totally out of the blue makes an interesting point.
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Stephen Morgan is Principle Editor at
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