How quickly does sudden cardiac death happen?

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a rapid and unexpected loss of heart function, typically resulting from a life-threatening heart arrhythmia, most commonly ventricular fibrillation. The term "sudden" implies that death occurs within minutes to hours after the onset of symptoms or the collapse.

In many cases of SCD, the time from the onset of symptoms to death is very short, often within minutes. This emphasizes the urgency of recognizing the signs of a potential cardiac event and seeking emergency medical attention promptly.

The outcome of SCD depends significantly on the availability of immediate medical intervention, particularly the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs). If CPR is initiated within the first few minutes and an AED is used to deliver a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm, the chances of survival may be significantly improved.

Therefore, it's crucial to be aware of the symptoms of a potential cardiac event, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and sudden loss of consciousness, and to activate emergency medical services (call 911 or the local emergency number) as soon as possible. Early recognition and intervention can make a critical difference in the outcome of sudden cardiac events.