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How is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treated?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can be treated, but emergency action must be taken for survival. The staff at The Heart Hospital Baylor knows that every second counts. From CPR and defibrillation to medication and procedures, our cardiologists are highly trained to treat complex heart conditions, such as SCA.

Emergency Treatment

Sudden cardiac arrest is an emergency. A person having SCA needs to be treated with a defibrillator right away. This device sends an electric shock to the heart. The electric shock can restore a normal rhythm to a heart that's stopped beating.

To work well, defibrillation must be done within minutes of SCA. With every minute that passes, the chances of surviving SCA drop rapidly.

Police, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders usually are trained and equipped to use a defibrillator. Call 9-1-1 right away if someone has signs or symptoms of SCA. The sooner you call for help, the sooner lifesaving treatment can begin.

Automated External Defibrillators

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are special defibrillators that untrained bystanders can use. These portable devices often are found in public places, such as shopping malls, golf courses, businesses, airports, casinos, convention centers, hotels, sports venues, and schools.

AEDs are programmed to give an electric shock if they detect a dangerous arrhythmia, such as ventricular fibrillation. This prevents giving a shock to someone who may have fainted but isn't having SCA.

You should give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to a person having SCA until defibrillation can be done.

People who are at risk for SCA may want to consider having an AED at home. A 2008 study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health found that AEDs in the home are safe and effective.

Some people feel that placing these devices in homes will save many lives because many SCAs occur at home. Others note that no evidence supports the idea that home-use AEDs save more lives. These people fear that people who have AEDs in their homes will delay calling for help during an emergency. They're also concerned that people who have home-use AEDs will not properly maintain the devices or forget where they are.

When considering a home-use AED, talk with your doctor. They can help you decide whether having an AED in your home will benefit you.

Treatment in a Hospital

If you survive SCA, you'll likely be admitted to a hospital for ongoing care and treatment. In the hospital, your medical team will closely watch your heart. They may give you medicines to try to reduce the risk of another SCA.

While in the hospital, your medical team will try to find out what caused your SCA. If you're diagnosed with coronary heart disease, you may have percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty, or coronary artery bypass grafting​ (CABG). These procedures help restore blood flow through narrowed or blocked coronary arteries.

Often, people who have SCA get a device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This small device is surgically placed under the skin in your chest or abdomen. An ICD uses electric pulses or shocks to help control dangerous arrhythmias.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why The Heart Hospital Baylor?

Providing compassionate expert care to our guests is our highest priority. That's why The Heart Hospital Baylor takes a collaborative approach to treating heart disorders. When you see one of the electrophysiologists on our medical staff, you may also receive expertise from members of the multidisciplinary team of medical specialists. When necessary, our team integrates seamlessly with other cardiac services, such as specialists in heart failure, structural heart disease, and valve disorders. Our integration doesn't stop inside the walls of The Heart Hospital Baylor. Our Electrophysiology Lab was one of the first to implement the Odyssey Cinema Studio. Through our innovative Odyssey system, we are able to collaborate with other specialists and provide our expertise to physicians around the world through webcasts and teaching programs.

Patient Testimonial

Debi Lemon exercised and ate right, but then one day collapsed at work from sudden cardiac arrest. Fortunately, she was taken to The Heart Hospital Baylor. Learn more about her Debi's treatment at The Heart Hospital Baylor by watching her video ​»

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