Sudden Cardiac Arrest Terminology

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) describes the unexpected natural death from a cardiac cause within a short time period, generally ≤1 hour from the onset of symptoms, in a person without any prior condition that would appear fatal.

Prior to modern resuscitation techniques i.e. CPR and defibrillation, a person experiencing symptoms that would cause an SCD would almost certainly stay that way.  However, now that people are surviving them the term is inaccurate and so Sudden Cardiac Arrest seems more appropriate.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is possibly not a term you would of heard before you had one, and even then it’s not often used by physicians in the UK.  However, it’s widely used in the US and is starting to gain traction here and other countries.

In the UK physicians typically call it just Cardiac Arrest (CA) or sometimes Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OOHCA or OHCA), but this does not distinguish the nature of the cardiac arrest and in the later excludes those that occur in hospital.

Aborted Sudden Cardiac Death – a term used less often, and gives an indication that the arrest was not fatal.

Often confused with an SCA is a heart attack, but they are not the same.  The medical term for a heart attack is Myocardial Infarction.