Study: Sudden Cardiac Arrest May Not Be So Sudden

Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Calling 911 when symptoms of could be felt increased the chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest by four times. Photo by Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 22 (UPI) — Sudden cardiac arrest may not be so sudden — apparent warning signs are often ignored by more than half of patients for as long as a month, according to a new study.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the Oregon Health and Science University found in a long-term study that many sudden cardiac arrest patients have symptoms indicative of a heart attack for weeks but don’t report them to their doctors.

About 326,000 people had a heart attack outside the hospital in 2011, of whom just 10.6 percent survived, according to an American Heart Association report.

“These new findings give good reason not to ignore unusual sensations, as vague as they may be,” said Dr. Eduardo Marbán, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, in a press release. “Better to seek medical attention early than to risk dying suddenly.”

Researchers in the study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed data on 839 patients in the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death survey who had sudden cardiac arrest.

In the four weeks before having a heart attack, 50 percent of men and 53 percent of women in the study had warning symptoms, including chest pain and difficult or labored breathing. In 93 percent of those patients, the symptoms recurred within a day before the heart attack.

Of patients with symptoms, just 19 percent called 911 to report their symptoms and most had a history of heart disease or continuous chest pain.

Calling 911 improved chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest — 32 percent of patients with symptoms who picked up the phone survived the heart attack, as opposed to just 6 percent who did not call.

“Sudden cardiac arrest in middle age hits society hard since most who are affected are their families’ primary breadwinners,” said Dr. Sumeet Chugh, MD, medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

“Now that we realize that sudden death may not be so sudden, there is also potential for new shorter-term approaches by increasing awareness and education of patients and their healthcare providers.”


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