Cardiac Arrest Victims Often Miss Warning Signs
“Sudden” cardiac arrest may not be so sudden after all.
Many people who go into cardiac arrest may actually have missed warnings signs, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, according to a study from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. The researchers concluded that if those symptoms had been taken more seriously, the patients’ chances for survival would have increased significantly.
Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart abruptly stops beating, depriving the brain and vital organs of blood, oxygen and nutrients. It can be fatal if it’s not treated within minutes.
But about half the time, patients actually do experience warning signs in the four weeks before their heart stops – and for nearly all who do, those symptoms tend to recur in the 24 hours before their heart stops.
The study found that only about one in five people who have warning symptoms call for help. When they did call 911, survival odds shot up to 32 percent, compared with just 6 percent for people who had symptoms and didn’t seek emergency medical attention.
The team looked at 430 patients with warning symptoms before their heart stopped, and 54 percent of men and 24 percent of women had chest pain. For women, shortness of breath was more common, occurring in 31 percent of those with warning symptoms compared with 14 percent of the men. Older patients and people with a history of heart disease were more likely to call 911.
These findings highlight the need for doctors to do a better job of educating patients – beyond the classic description of chest pain or radiating pain in the left arm – to include conditions such as unexplained shortness of breath, persistent nausea, profound fatigue and light headedness.
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