CAUSES OF SCD AND RISK FACTORS

SCD often occurs in active, seemingly fit and healthy people with no known heart disease or other health problems. But in reality sudden cardiac death is not an arbitrary incident.

Most victims have heart disease or other health problems, although they may not know it and may have had no symptoms until their heart suddenly stops pumping blood to the rest of their body. There can be numerous contributors to sudden cardiac arrest, but some of the more prevalent ones are:

  • A previous heart attack; 75% of the people who die of SCD show signs of a previous heart attack.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD); 80% of SCD’s victims have signs of coronary artery disease. This is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart are narrowed or blocked.
  • When SCD occurs in young adults, other heart abnormalities, including congenital ones, can be the cause. Adrenaline released during intense physical or athletic activity often acts as a trigger when these abnormalities are present.
  • Under certain conditions, various heart medications and other drugs – as well as the use of some illegal drugs – can lead to abnormal heart rhythms that can cause SCD.

There are many tests your doctor may perform to evaluate your risk for SCD. Among these are:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Holter monitor
  • Event recorder
  • Electrophysiology study (EPS)

What are the treatments for survivors?

If an episode of sudden cardiac arrest was due to ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, survivors are at risk for another arrest, especially if they have underlying heart disease. Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest must have all causes corrected to prevent future episodes.

Depending on the underlying cause of sudden cardiac arrest, possible tests and treatments include:
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Balloon angioplasty or PTCA
  • Antiarrhythmic medication
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Implantable pacemaker
  • Heart Transplant