An attempt to prevent sudden cardiac death can be made by learning to identify the warning signs of cardiac arrest, say scientists.
"Our study suggests that shifting the focus to educating high-risk patients and families may lead to earlier recognition, a quicker call to the emergency medical system (EMS), a higher percentage of bystander CPR [cardio pulmonary resuscitation], and thus to a higher probability of in patients with sudden cardiac death," says researcher Dirk Muller, MD, PhD, of the University of Berlin, in a news release.
The sudden stopping of pumping of the heart leads to cardiac arrest.
More than 330,000 people die every year from heart problem before reaching a hospital, or in an emergency room, says the American Heart Association. Sudden cardiac arrest is the reason for most of these deaths.
Of the more than 5,000 rescue missions carried out by doctors at a mobile intensive care unit in Berlin, 406 cardiac arrest cases were observed by the researchers in this study.
According to the results, 72% of the cardiac arrest took place at home and 67% were witnessed by an onlooker.
Information on symptoms before cardiac arrest were collected for 323 of the 406 cases by the researchers.
Chest pain lasting from 20 minutes to 10 hours and 30 minutes before the cardiac arrest was the most common warning sign. It occurred in 25% of the arrests witnessed by onlookers.
17% of the witnessed cardiac arrests showed symptoms of breathlessness for 10 minutes while 7% experienced nausea or vomiting for 90 minutes before the arrest. Dizziness or fainting were some of the other common symptoms.
Of the 352 patients whose personal history was available, 106 had a history of coronary artery disease that put them at increased risk for cardiac arrest and 16 had already had a cardiac arrest.
According to the study, CPR was performed on 57 patients by the onlookers of which 13 survived to hospital discharge. Whereas, only 4 % of the patients who did not receive CPR from the onlooker survived.
The study revealed that CPR attempts were higher in public locations (26 %) than at homes (11%).
The results propose that possibility of death from cardiac arrest can be decreased by training family members and caregivers of people with heart disease and at increased risk to recognize symptoms and perform CPR.
"Training and prevention efforts should be focused on how to recognize the emergency, CPR training, and automated external defibrillator (AED) use," says Muller.