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Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Pronunciation: S-C-A (ēs-sē-ā)

Definition: Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart abruptly stops beating due to a malfunction in its electrical system. This disruption leads to an immediate loss of heart function, consciousness, and breathing. SCA is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment, usually in the form of CPR and defibrillation.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?


SCA is not the same as a heart attack. While a heart attack refers to a blockage that damages the heart muscle, SCA occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating. Without immediate treatment, SCA results in death, often within minutes.

Key Facts about Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA):

  • SCA is a medical emergency that requires immediate action. Quick initiation of CPR and use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) significantly increase the chance of survival.
  • SCA is one of the leading causes of death in adults over the age of 40 in the United States and other countries.
  • Many SCA victims have no prior symptoms or warning signs.
  • Risk factors for SCA include a history of heart disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and a family history of heart-related problems.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Response

How to respond to a SCA?

If someone is experiencing SCA, immediate action should be taken:

  • Call your local emergency number.
  • Begin CPR immediately. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.
  • Use an AED as soon as it’s available.

Frequently Asked Questions About SCA

What is the difference between a heart attack and SCA?

A heart attack is a circulation problem caused by blocked arteries that prevent blood from reaching parts of the heart, which can damage the heart muscle. SCA is an electrical problem where the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. However, a heart attack can lead to SCA.

Can SCA be prevented?

While SCA can’t always be prevented, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing known heart conditions, and avoiding smoking can lower the risk.


  1. American Heart Association. (n.d.). What is Cardiac Arrest? Retrieved July 26, 2023, from
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2023). Sudden cardiac arrest. Retrieved July 26, 2023, from