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Sudden Cardiac Death

Some heart rhythm disorders can be minor and require only ongoing follow-up. Others can lead to sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac death can happen when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. It’s not the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac death can occur in people who appear healthy. Often, they have a heart problem that hasn’t been diagnosed.

The most common causes of sudden cardiac death are ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation

Risks

People who experience cardiac arrest may have one or more of the following risks:
  • History of heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart rate or rhythm
  • Unusually rapid heart rate (tachycardia) that comes and goes – even at rest
  • Syncope (episodes of loss of consciousness)
  • Low ejection fraction  -- a measurement of how much blood the heart can pump

Diagnosis

The tests used to predict sudden cardiac death overlap with those used to diagnose the various heart rhythm disorders that can lead to it. Learn more about diagnosis of heart rhythm disorders

Prevention

The ways to decrease your chance for sudden cardiac death overlap with the ways to manage and treat the heart rhythm disorders that can cause it. Learn more