This paper will examine the emergency medical condition known as Sudden Cardiac Arrest or SCA and its treatment utilizing the technology of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). I will conclude the paper with an outline of how to set up a Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) program at your facility. My passion for this topic derives from having survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest at the age of 43 and being a physician as well.

Seven years ago, in the peak of good health, with no obvious risk factors for heart disease, I collapsed while exercising on a treadmill at a local health club. While CPR connected me to threads of life for the next ten minutes, I would not survive this event without a shock of electricity to my heart. Fortunately, local emergency medical services had an AED available which delivered the shock necessary to reverse the lethal heart rhythm. While still comatose, I was alive. Over the next few days, I would awaken and eventually earn the rights to an implanted defibrillator which is with me today. I relay this brief history to you because it is imperative that you understand that Sudden Cardiac Arrest crosses all lines of age and state of health. Before I discuss this further, however, I want to be certain that we are all familiar with the basics of normal heart function so that we can then understand the underlying causes of SCA.

Heart Anatomy

The heart is basically a muscle, comprised of two chambers; the two upper called atrium and the two lower called ventricles. The two atrium are separated from one another as are the two ventricles. As well, the upper and lower chambers are separated from one another. The ventricles are the powerhouse of the heart, the right responsible for pumping blood into the lungs where it receives oxygen and the left for ejecting the oxygenated blood from the heart into the rest of the body. The constant pumping mechanism of the heart is triggered by a complex electrical network that fires like clockwork, promoting the heart muscle to contract and eject the blood from its chambers. Any interference with normal ventricular contraction jeopardizes the delivery of oxygenated blood to the brain, liver, kidneys and heart itself and may result in a variety of symptoms ranging from a fluttering sensation in the chest to dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain and nausea. At its most extreme, the victim may experience a complete cessation of normal coordinate heart function resulting in instantaneous collapse, loss of effective breathing and death. This is the common definition of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Definition and Cause

Sudden Cardiac Arrest or SCA is also known as cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death. In lay terms, it is best to think of SCA an event that interrupts the normal electrical conduction system that powers the heart (described above), rendering the muscle incapable of its normal pumping action.

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