Warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest may help with prevention

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Sudden cardiac arrest causes one in five deaths in industrialized countries.

Most sudden cardiac arrests occur in the community in people not known to be at risk.

A cardiac arrhythmia, called ventricular fibrillation, causes the heart to stop pumping and blood flow to cease. If blood flow is not restored quickly, the individual passes out and dies within 10 to 20 minutes.

In a study from the European Heart Rhythm Association, scientists found that primary care visits rise sharply in the weeks immediately preceding a sudden cardiac arrest.

Contrary to the general assumption, a sudden cardiac arrest does not strike entirely unheralded.

The team found that patients attend primary care more often in the run-up to an arrest compared to usual.

This insight may provide a lead for efforts to identify individuals at imminent risk of sudden cardiac arrest so that it can be prevented.

In the project, the team aimed to improve both prevention and treatment.

During the five-year scientific project, scientists have examined the causes of ventricular fibrillation so that it can be prevented and have examined resuscitation strategies in an effort to improve survival rates.

Developing effective prevention and treatment approaches required information on genetic and environmental risk factors from large study cohorts of sudden cardiac arrest patients—which were previously unavailable.

The scientific partners joined forces to create a shared harmonized database of more than 100,000 sudden cardiac arrest victims.

A biobank with DNA samples from 10,000 well-phenotyped sudden cardiac arrest victims has also been created.

Scientific discoveries include the finding that citizen rescuers provide less rapid resuscitation care to women than to men and that women consequently have lower survival chances than men.

Novel data have been collected on the sudden cardiac arrest risk linked to the use of various commonly used, noncardiac drugs in different European countries.

The team says the sudden cardiac arrest is a pressing public health problem that has so far been extremely hard to solve, largely because of the lack of difficulty to obtain detailed clinical data and biological samples.

The study has made important steps by establishing a database, biobank and knowledge base that may be used in future studies to solve this problem.

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The study was conducted by Dr. Hanno Tan et al.

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