Over the past few years, there have been increasing incidences of cardiac arrests which has led to concerns all over India. The most common among these conditions is sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest or SCA is a medical emergency that typically occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It is a life-threatening condition and may prove fatal if medical intervention (like defibrillation) or spontaneous reversion is not initiated immediately to restore circulation. Sometimes, looking out for the symptoms of cardiac arrest may also help the patient mitigate the risk.
This World Heart Day, let us find out more about the symptoms of cardiac arrest and what you can do about it!
Signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest
As the name suggests, sudden cardiac arrest may occur without any prior notice and may lead to problems. However, some patients may experience certain symptoms of cardiac arrest before its occurrence. Patients may ignore or downplay their symptoms, and future symptom discovery is frequently constrained, especially in patients who do not survive the incident. Additionally, patients with SCA who are revived frequently experience retrograde amnesia and are therefore unable to recall any possible events or symptoms.
During an occurrence of SCA, an individual experiences a loss of consciousness, absence of pulse, and cessation of breathing. In over half of the cases of SCA, people experience symptoms before their SCA. The symptoms can happen either just before their SCA or in the days leading up to it. Symptoms commonly experienced by patients may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling of a racing heart skipping a beat or beating out of sync
- Extreme fatigue
- Fu-like symptoms
Also Read: Suffering from chest pain? These are 12 myths and facts you must be aware of
Symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest may occur 2 weeks before the incident
An extensive community study between 2002-2012, involving 839 sudden cardiac arrest patients revealed that about 430 patients (51 percent) were found to have experienced warning symptoms four weeks prior to SCA. The presence of symptoms was ascertained either by the surviving patient, from their family members, witnesses at the scene of the event, or medical records obtained four weeks prior to and leading up to the event. Moreover, the study also revealed that eighty percent of patients had symptoms at least an hour before the SCA event, and 34 percent experienced symptoms for more than 24 hours before cardiac arrest. Notably, the most prevalent symptoms were chest discomfort (46 percent) and dyspnea (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) (18 percent). Interestingly, in women, dyspnea was more common (31 percent) than chest pain (24 percent).
However, it is essential to understand that symptoms are nonspecific and may also reflect benign conditions. They may not necessarily precede all episodes of cardiac arrest. In most cases, their presence may not even be of any value in helping to prevent or stop SCA episodes. Having said that, patients should not downplay the symptoms concerning cardiac disease, particularly new or unstable symptoms, and should seek prompt medical care for potentially life-saving evaluation and treatment.
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