Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a dangerous medical emergency that if not immediately treated can lead to death in a matter of minutes, known as sudden cardiac death (SCD). SCA occurs when there is an electrical problem within the heart that prevents it from beating effectively. In many cases, this will cause a rapid life-threatening heart rhythm. Instead of pumping blood to the brain and body, the heart will quiver or shake.
If a bystander is present, CPR should be administered immediately before the ambulance arrives. But in most cases, an electrical shock from a defibrillator is needed to help the heart regain a normal rhythm.
Typically, there are no warning signs or symptoms that SCA is about to happen. The victim will suddenly lose consciousness and is unable to call for help. SCA can happen any time of day – no matter whether a person is awake or asleep.
Unfortunately, the survival of SCA is very low. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 90 percent of the more than 366,000 people in the U.S. who experience SCA outside of a hospital each year die. In many cases, SCA is the first sign of a problem with the heart. However, there are certain heart patients who are known to be at an increased risk for SCA. This includes those that have or have experienced one of the following:
- Low ejection fraction (EF) – if the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the heart’s main pumping chamber during each heartbeat is 35% or lower
- Prior heart attack – after a heart attack, scar tissue can lead to electrical short cuts and abnormalities
- Heart failure or Cardiomyopathy – for these conditions, the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs
For these individuals, a wearable defibrillator, ZOLL LifeVest, may be a treatment option. When worn as directed, ZOLL LifeVest provides a constant safeguard against sudden cardiac death without bystander intervention. More information is available on the Cleveland Clinic’s website about LifeVest, a wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD) that is prescribed to patients at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
ZOLL LifeVest is intended to provide continuous heart monitoring for heart patients at risk of SCA. This means a patient will wear the device at all times, except for a short shower or bath. If a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm is detected, ZOLL LifeVest is designed to automatically deliver treatment to restore normal rhythm. The entire event, from detecting the life-threatening rapid heartbeat to automatically delivering a shock, usually takes less than a minute. Because the LifeVest WCD does not require bystander intervention, the device can protect a patient even when they are alone.