AEDs & SCA Facts

The Facts

  • SCA is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 325,000 lives each year. That’s nearly 1,000 people a day or one person every two minutes.
  • In Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), the heart suddenly develops a chaotic rhythm and fails to effectively pump blood. Victims of SCA collapse and lose consciousness. SCA is fatal unless a normal heart rhythm is restored within minutes.
  • An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a small, portable device that delivers an electric shock to restore the heart to its normal rhythm. An AED device will not deliver an electric shock if the heart doesn’t need it.
  • The SCA survival rate in the United States is currently 5%.
  • In Washington, D.C., an estimated 700 lives are claimed by SCA each year.
  • The only effective treatment for SCA is through defibrillation. For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decrease by about 10%. After the first few minutes without defibrillation, few attempts at resuscitation are successful.
  • More people die from SCA than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, AIDS, house fires, handguns and traffic accidents combined.
  • 50% of men and 64% of women who died from SCA had no previously reported symptoms of heart disease. SCA can occur in an instant without warning.
  • It is estimated that widespread availability of AEDs could save as many as 40,000 Americans annually.
  • SCA is not a heart attack. A heart attack is a circulation or “plumbing problem” in which blockage in a blood vessel prevents proper blood flow to the heart. SCA is an “electrical problem” in which a rapid, irregular heart rhythm causes it to quiver rather than contract in a normal rhythm.
  • People who are at high risk for SCA may be treated with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), which are small devices implanted under the skin in the upper chest. ICDs monitor the heart’s rhythm 24 hours a day and automatically deliver a shock when an irregular heart rhythm is detected.