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Heart - MedicalSCA Facts:

  • Each year, approximately 40,000 people in Canada experience a Sudden Cardiac Arrest
  • This represents one SCA every 12 minutes
  • SCA is not the same as heart attacks, heart attacks are “plumbing” problems, clogged arteries and such, SCA’s are “electrical” problems, where seemingly healthy hearts suddenly go into an abnormal rhythm that can not sustain life.
  • SCA is often the first sign of heart disease, 50% of males and 64% of females who experience SCA report no prior symptoms of heart disease
  • If a person experiences SCA, they have only 1 to 5 seconds to react before they collapse unconscious
  • The only thing that can save a victim of SCA is a shock from a defibrillator
  • More than 95% of patients who receive defibrillation in the first minute of SCA survive
  • With every minute that passes without treatment with a shock to the heart, a SCA victims chance of survival decreases by 7-10%
  • After 10 minutes very few SCA victims survive
  • 85% of SCA occurs in homes or public places, less than 5% survive
  • SCA is the leading cause of deaths in schools
  • In the US, one study of SCA events showed a 64% survival rate in schools with AED programs, compared with the usual 5% survival rate
  • SCA information in Canada are estimates as there is no event registry or database for SCA
  • Manitoba is the only province in Canada with a mandatory AED law for public facilities including schools
  • Teachers are not required to have first aid, nor CPR/AED training
  • SCA kills more Canadians every year (>40,000) than lung cancer (>20,000)
  • There are effective treatments available for SCA........CPR plus rapid defibrillation.
  • EVERYONE can learn CPR and use an AED

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? A top cause of death in Canada. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) happens without warning and instantly stops the flow of blood to the brain and vital organs. It proves fatal in 92 percent of cases if not properly treated within minutes. It claims as many lives than breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS and stroke deaths combined. Unlike a heart attack, which happens when a blocked blood vessel prevents blood from flowing to the heart muscle, SCA is caused by a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system that abruptly halts the heartbeat. These malfunctions are most often caused by an arrhythmia, or an irregular heart rhythm. In most cases of SCA, arrhythmias known as ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF) cause the electrical impulses to fire too rapidly. When SCA strikes, immediate treatment is critical. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) can help save the patient’s life if given within minutes of the event. But defibrillation with an AED is the only way to restore normal electrical activity to the heart and get it beating again.


The first symptom of SCA may be death.

SCA can strike anyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. Even being in excellent health is no guarantee. The syndrome has affected professional athletes and people with no known health problems. However, about 80 percent of SCA victims do have some sign of coronary heart disease. SCA affects males four times more than females and occurs during exercise more than 60% of the time. While SCA often has no warning signs, a study published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (2012) revealed that 72% of students who suffered from SCA were reported by their parents to have at least one cardiovascular symptom before SCA. They just didn’t recognize it as life threatening. That’s why it’s important for everyone to understand potential warnings and risk factors based on your family’s heart history.

These symptoms are potential indicators that SCA is about to happen:

racing heart,

palpitations or irregular heartbeat

dizziness or lightheadedness

fainting or seizure, especially during or right after exercise

fainting repeatedly or with excitement or startle

chest pain or discomfort with exercise excessive,

unexpected fatigue during or after exercise excessive

shortness of breath during exercise

The following factors increase risk of SCA:

family history of known heart abnormalities or sudden death before age 50

specific family history of Long QT Syndrome, Brugada Syndrome, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD)

family members with unexplained fainting, seizures, drowning or near drowning or car accidents

known structural heart abnormality, repaired or unrepaired

use of drugs, such as cocaine, inhalants, “recreational” drugs or excessive energy drinks

A sixth grader can operate a life-saving AED.

An AED analyzes the victim’s heart rhythm and determines whether a shock is required to restore the rhythm. Thanks to clear audio or visual instructions to walk the user through the necessary steps, sixth-grade school children with moderate training can learn to use AEDs to save the lives of cardiac arrest victims almost as quickly and efficiently as professional emergency medical personnel. For every minute that passes without defibrillation, a victim’s chance of survival decreases 10 percent. On average, it takes EMS teams an average of six to 12 minutes to arrive. That means we all need to be prepared to face this kind of crisis. Every province includes the “good faith” use of an AED by any person under the Good Samaritan Laws. It’s estimated that the widespread availability and use of AEDs could save thousands of Canadian lives each year.