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Published on Oct 28, 2008
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people last year. Thats more than the total death rate for breast cancer, lung cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. It is estimated that 95% of SCA victims die before reaching the hospital. During SCA, heart function ceases abruptly and without warning. When this occurs, the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body. This is usually caused when the electrical impulses in the affected heart become abnormally rapid or chaotic, or both. These irregular heart rhythms are arrhythmias. For individuals identified as at high risk of SCA, preventative treatments include both drug therapies and medical devices called implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). An ICD is a small electronic device that is implanted into your body. It monitors your heart rhythm and when you have arrhythmia it helps you heart return to its normal sinus rhythm. It has multiple functions. It works to correct a fast rhythm which is called ATP (antitachycardia pacing). If the ATP is unable to slow a fast rhythm, the ICD will give the heart a shock. Also, if there it senses a very fast irregular rhythm, it sends a strong shock to the heart to override the fast rhythm. These shocks can feel like a horse kicked you in the chest. All ICD's have pacemaker capabilities.