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How A Heart Attack is Different From Cardiac Arrest

Differences between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest

What’s the difference?

Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the victim’s heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly due to an abnormal heart rate or arrhythmia.  A sudden cardiac arrest victim will have little or no fore-warning, will lose consciousness and collapse.  Sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem, in that the heart rhythm malfunctions, the heart quivers and stops pumping blood, therefore the victim stops breathing,  has no blood pressure or pulse.  The only treatment for SCA and the only hope for the victim’s survival is that an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) be used within 5 minutes of collapse.

A heart attack is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked.  A heart attack victim will have symptoms including chest pains, radiating pain in the left arm, difficulty breathing,  and/or nausea.  A heart attack is a “plumbing” problem caused by one or more blockages in the heart’s blood vessels, preventing proper flow.  The heart attack victim will most likely remain conscious.

Sudden cardiac arrest can rapidly lead to irreversible brain damage and death if not treated within the first 4 – 5 minutes of the victim’s collapse.

If the victim is not treated with defibrillation within the first 3 minutes following collapse, their survival decreased by 21%, and 10% for each minute beyond 3 minutes.  Death will be unavoidable after 5-6 minutes with no defibrillation.