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Rescuing a Patient


  • Nearly 425,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest occur annually in the United States

  • Almost every 90 seconds a sudden cardiac arrest occurs

  • Every minute without CPR the survival rated decreases by 10%

  • About 88% of those cardiac arrests happen in the home

  • Only 46% of cardiac arrest victims get the HELP they need before EMS arrives

  • Without CPR 92% die before making it to the hospital

  • Close to 10,000 cardiac arrest occur in the workplace

  • Less than 8% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive

  • Less than one-third (1/3) of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR 

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is by far the leading cause of  death in adults over 40 years of age

  • 1 in every 400 individuals know how to perform CPR correctly

  • About 40% survive a sudden cardiac arrest when they receive CPR within 6 minutes

NCAA athletes’ sudden cardiac death rate fell over 20 years, still higher in some athletes

In a nationwide review of records examining the incidence and causes of sudden cardiac death among college student athletes competing in NCAA sports between 2002 and 2022, researchers noted an overall decrease in the incidence of sudden cardiac death but persistently high rates of sudden cardiac death for specific subgroups of athletes.

The study found:

  • Among 1,102 deaths overall, sudden cardiac death was the most common medical cause of death, being cited in 143 (13%) cases.

  • The incidence rate for sudden cardiac death among NCAA athletes decreased, on average, by 29% every 5 years in the 20-year study period.

  • Black and white NCAA Division 1 male basketball players had the highest incidence of sudden cardiac death in the study — more than 1 in 2,000 over a 4-year career.

  • Male athletes were about four times (1 in 43,348) as likely to have sudden cardiac death than female athletes (1 in 164,504).

  • Black athletes were about three times as likely (1 in 26,704) as white athletes (1 in 74,581) to die from sudden cardiac death.

"The decline in overall rates of sudden cardiac death in the current study may be explained by improved survival rates from an initial sudden cardiac arrest event thanks to more widespread education on the importance of CPR training, AED availability and emergency action plans (this data was not available in the current study), or it may indicate improvements in pre-participation cardiovascular screening” said study author Bradley J. Petek, M.D., director of sports cardiology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

In this study, autopsy reports and medical histories related to 1,102 total deaths were reviewed by an expert panel to determine the causes of death and found that:

  • 143 deaths (13%) were listed as sudden cardiac deaths.

  • In 19.5% of the sudden cardiac deaths, there were no clear structural heart abnormalities found during an autopsy. These cases therefore may be related to primary heart rhythm abnormalities that may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death in this group.

  • In the cases with enough evidence to determine the cause of sudden cardiac death: 17% were attributed to possible diseases of the heart muscle’s structure and function (idiopathic left ventricular hypertrophy/cardiomyopathy); and 13% were due to a thickened heart muscle, hampering heart function (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), both of which may lead to abnormal heart rhythms.

  • Commotio cordis — the condition that reportedly affected NFL player Damar Hamlin earlier this year — accounted for 2 deaths during the 20-year study period.

  • There were no cases of death due to COVID-19-related myocarditis in the 2 ½ years of the pandemic included in the study.

“The incidence and causes of sudden cardiac death among young, competitive athletes impact prevention strategies yet remain incompletely understood,” Petek said. “We have the opportunity to greatly improve outcomes through ongoing training and education of CPR, providing better access to defibrillators, and promoting the use and adherence to emergency action plans.”

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AED benefit is clear in athletes with sudden cardiac arrest

A prompt, appropriate medical response nearly doubles the likelihood of survival among competitive young athletes who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest during exercise, a new study shows.

The research, published in Sports Health, was led by Jonathan Drezner, a professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He directs UW Medicine’s Center for Sports Cardiology.

The study encompassed 132 events of sudden cardiac arrest during a two-year span across the United States. The athletes’ average age was 16, and nearly all events (93 percent) were witnessed by bystanders. Among the athletes, 64 (48 percent) survived. But in the subset of cases in which an automated external defibrillator (AED) was onsite and used during resuscitation, 89 percent survived.

“Exercise-related sudden cardiac arrest is almost always a survivable event when you have prompt recognition by witnesses, proper resuscitation and an AED close by,” Drezner said. “Forty-eight percent is far better than the overall survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S. But this data tells me that a lot of young athletes we should be saving are dying.”

Drezner has advocated for more public funding for AEDs in high schools in Seattle and Washington state, and has facilitated free electrocardiogram (EKG) screenings of thousands of high school athletes.

Getting AEDs placed at school gyms and playfields, and ensuring that coaches and athletic trainers are familiar with signs of cardiac arrest, will create the life-saving possibilities that young athletes deserve, he said.

“We should be better prepared than we are. These are our kids,” he said.

The study also reflected racial disparities in survival rates.  Across the 132 cases, survival was higher among white non-Hispanic/Latino athletes (60 percent) than black/African American (33 percent) and Hispanic/Latino (20 percent) athletes.

“We can hypothesize that the reason is that there are more minorities in schools with fewer resources, and socioeconomic disparities result in fewer AEDs and athletic trainers onsite in schools mostly populated by minority students. We’re trying to get more granular details about this racial disparity to bring it to light so we can change it,” Drezner said.

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