What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Cameron Health What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is a very serious heart condition, and if not treated within minutes, can lead to sudden cardiac death. More people die from this each year—about 295,000­—than breast cancer, lung cancer, and AIDS combined.1

Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a problem with the electrical system of your heart. If the electrical signals in your heart are abnormal, this can create an irregular heart rhythm called an arrhythmia.

In some cases, arrhythmia may cause your heart rate to dangerously increase, called ventricular tachycardia or VT. If the VT becomes very fast, unstable, and irregular, it may be much more serious, which is called ventricular fibrillation or VF. With VF, the heart quivers rapidly and cannot pump blood throughout the body. This is called sudden cardiac arrest.

If not treated within minutes, sudden cardiac arrest can lead to death. An electrical shock administered to the heart, called defibrillation, can reset the heart’s rhythm and restore normal blood flow throughout the body.

Are you at risk?


  • 1. Lloyd-Jones D, Adams RJ, Brown TM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2010 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2010;121(7):e46-2215. Epub 2009 Dec 17.
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