Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is an unexpected death caused by a sudden loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest, SCA). Every year, 400,000 adults die of SCD, making it one of the largest causes of death in Europe. Sudden Cardiac Death begins with Sudden Cardiac Arrest, mostly caused by an arrhythmia called “ventricular fibrillation” (a rapid, chaotic, lethal rhythm of the heart). When this occurs, the heart will abruptly stop to pump blood. Consequently, the patient feels dizzy and faints. SCD occurs within minutes, if no resuscitation is immediately initiated.

Coronary heart disease is the most important underlying disease causing ventricular fibrillation. Other risk factors being family history of sudden death, syncope or heart failure (reduced pumping power of the heart).

“Many victims could survive if they were treated quickly and effectively with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), including defibrillation. If we could increase the actual rate of survival from 5% to 20%, 80,000 lives could be saved each year in Europe alone” explained Prof Dr Dietrich Andresen, local host to Europace 2009 and Director of Vivantes-Klinikum Am Urban in Berlin, Germany.

“Waiting for emergency personal to arrive at the scene leads to delays in help and reduces the chance of survival by 10% each minute. Immediate intervention by trained laypersons could make a huge difference. This is why the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) and the Lion’s Club Intercontinental (LCI) in Berlin are supporting a programme on basic CPR skills”, concludes Andresen.

CPR in simple steps:

- check the collapsed person for unconsciousness

- call emergency help (Phone 112)

- person is not breathing normally - immediately begin chest compression by pushing hard and fast on the victim’s chest right between the nipples (30 times, 2 compression per second, 4 cm deep)

- after 30 compressions, give two rescue breaths after having gently tilted the head back and lift the chin up to open the airways

- if an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is available, deliver one shock if advised by the device. Then resume CPR (30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue ventilations