How many sudden cardiac arrest deaths are there each year in the United States?

The data for out of hospital sudden cardiac arrest deaths varies from between 300,000 to 325,000 lives lost annually, and unfortunately that number is rising each year.  The SCA death total annually is more than for breast cancer, lung cancer and HIV/AIDs combined. 

  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 325,000 lives each year.
  • SCA kills 1,000 people a day or one person every two minutes.
  • It is estimated that 95 percent of victims of cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital or other source of emergency help.

Only 9% of out of hospital SCA victims survive the event.  The final statistic below (only 3.7% of these victims that are treated with an AED prior to EMS arrival) is the root of this huge loss of life, and also the shining hope for increasing survival rates.  If an AED is available at the place the victim collapses, survival increases exponentially.  When someone collapses from sudden cardiac arrest these are the facts:

  1.  There are rarely symptoms and almost no forewarning of sudden cardiac arrest.
  2. The victim has about 5 minutes from time of collapse to have an AED deliver a shock to reset the heart’s rhythm.
  3. Without an AED within this time, the victim will die.

The public has basic knowledge of how to call 911 when there is a medical emergency and with the advent of such widespread use of cell phones, most emergencies are reported very quickly (Calling 911 from a landline gives dispatch the exact address and location of the caller, however, when using a cell phone to call 911, you MUST tell the dispatch what city you are calling from and if you are disconnected, you must call back.)

Statistics also demonstrate that most EMS 911 calls do not get to a victim of SCA within the 5 minute window.  Average “call to shock” (time the call is received at dispatch to the moment EMS is at the victim’s side using the AED) the times are 6-9 minutes.  IF there is no AED accessible at the location the victim collapses, the ONLY option is to wait for EMS, and this almost always a death sentence for the SCA victim.

Out-of Hospital Cardiac Arrest By the Numbers – courtesy of

295,000 (1): Annual incidence
8 (1) – 9.6% (2): Rate of survival to hospital discharge

5,760 (1): Annual incidence in youth <18
6% (1): Rate of survival to hospital discharge

64 (2): Mean age of victims

61% (2): Proportion of victims who are male

36.7% (1) – 47.3% (2): Proportion of cases witnessed by a bystander

31(1) – 33% (2): Proportion of OCHA victims who receive CPR

2(1) – 3.7%(2): Proportion of OCHA victims who are treated with an AED before EMS arrival

How many of the 325,000 lives lost annually could be saved if an AED were accessible within the 5 minute timeframe?  Education is the factor that will bring more AEDs to public places, schools, offices, and even homes. 

[ Related: Sudden Cardiac Arrest Infographic ]

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