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The only effective treatment for sudden cardiac arrest, SCA, is as soon as possible to restore the heart’s normal rhythm by using an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to deliver a shock to the heart. For every minute that passes without treatment, a person’s chance of surviving drops by 7% to 10%.  

People who happen to be in the area during the event play a critical role in saving lives. Their action can mean the difference between life and death.

What to Do?

  1. Call 911 or have someone else call if other people are available.
  2. Start CPR at once while waiting for emergency help to arrive.
  3. Ask another person to find the nearest AED. AEDs are portable devices found in EMS vehicles and public places. They give simple instructions and are programmed to identify an electrical problem and shock the heart.  

People who survive an SCA need advanced emergency and cardiac care. Doctors will use basic cardiac testing to identify the cause of SCA, and adjust treatment.

For some patients, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) placed under the skin may be needed. ICDs can detect an abnormal rhythm and send low shocks to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat.

“An AED is used in addition to other emergency care measures. Calling 911 for assistance and administering CPR are critical interventions for people with SCA in the field. The lack of an AED should not lead bystanders to delay treatment. Prompt administration of effective CPR significantly improves the chances of survival.”
– Leon Ptaszek, MD, PhD, FACC, Cardiac Arrhythmia Service, Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Last Edited 10/31/2016