If you've ever heard of or known someone who died suddenly, the narrative may be pretty unsettling. Many times, what appears to be a pretty youthful and healthy individual might just "pass away." Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden, unexpected death caused by the heart ceasing to operate. The most common cause of SCD is coronary artery disease (CAD). Other causes include cardiomyopathy (the weakening of the heart muscle), congenital heart disease (birth defect), and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). SCD can also be due to unexplained reasons. These are called non-cardiac deaths.
When people think about death, they usually imagine someone old and frail dying peacefully in their sleep one night and then forgetting about it the next day. But this isn't always the case; some people die violently under the most innocent circumstances. Others die after suffering for many years with a condition that finally proves fatal. Still others die after being hit by a car or falling from a great height. Death can even happen instantly when the brain is deprived of oxygen during something as simple as a head injury or stroke.
They can also suffer a heart attack, get shot, or fall off of a cliff. Death can come unexpectedly for anyone at any time. It's best to live each day like it could be your last, because one day it will be.
This article discusses the following five causes of sudden death: deadly arrhythmias, acute myocardial infarction, intracranial bleeding, major stroke (cerebrovascular accident), massive pulmonary embolism, and acute aortic catastrophe. Arrhythmias are very common in people who are not aware they are having a heart attack (no symptoms). The most common type of arrhythmia is called atrial fibrillation. The patient with atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms, or he or she may have symptoms of an irregular heartbeat (e.g., chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness). A patient with atrial fibrillation is usually treated with one of two drugs: amiodarone or flecainide. These medications can be effective in preventing future episodes of atrial fibrillation or other related problems.
Atrial fibrillation can be a sign of another problem called cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that causes it to become weak and lose its ability to pump blood effectively. Some forms of cardiomyopathy are caused by problems with the structure of some of the heart's chambers (e.g., dilated cardiomyopathy) while others are due to problems with the heart's electrical system (e.g., arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy).
Speciality Cardiology Lazarus syndrome (the Lazarus heart), also known as autoresuscitation after unsuccessful cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is the spontaneous resumption of a normal cardiac rhythm following failed resuscitation attempts. It has been reported in the medical literature at least 38 times since 1982. The condition has been described following an acute myocardial infarction, but also following electrophysiologic studies, coronary angiography, and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty.
Lazarus syndrome has been reported following both successful and unsuccessful cardiopulmonary resuscitations. It is believed to result from automatic nervous system activity causing the heart to beat on its own. Although this reflex is intended to provide a quick recovery from cardiovascular collapse, many patients who have had this reaction during hospitalization experience recurrent episodes of ventricular fibrillation that require further treatment.
The condition was first described in 1980 by Schuder et al. in a patient who had experienced a myocardial infarction and was taken off of life support after all signs of perfusion had disappeared. At this time, the team performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation noticed that the patient's pulse returned even though they were not performing any chest compressions. This case report was published shortly thereafter in a Japanese journal. Since then, there have been several more reports of this phenomenon in the English-language medical literature.