Surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Did you survive Cardiac Arrest?

With advanced technology and medicine more people are surviving episodes of cardiac arrest.  Each month, 10,000 people, including children, have a defibrillator implanted to restore normal heart rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death. For many survivors and their families, leaving the hospital after experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest can be an unsettling experience.  Patient experiences with surviving cardiac arrest  can be quite different. There are some factors that should be addressed.

One is the chest wall soreness. If you had CPR performed on you it is a brutal assault to the chest wall. Between each layer of ribs is a layer called costal cartilage. This cartilage has a very poor blood supply and when the cartilage is inflamed or injured – such as during CPR it can take a long time to heal. Many patients are concerned as it can be hard to distinguish between heart pain and chest wall pain. A few ways of determining is chest wall pain has a very specific location, often you can point to the location where it hurts. This pain doesn’t travel. It can be brought on by specific movements, a stretch or a compression, where heart pains are more likely to come on with a physical or emotional stress, such as brisk exercise, and lessen when the activity is stopped. It is always recommended you discuss any concerns about chest discomfort with your healthcare practitioner.


Survivors also commonly deal with memory loss or delayed recall. Forgetfulness and/or a reduced ability to comprehend or problem-solve can lead to increased stress, anxiety, anger anddepression.

Medical Care :

  • external defibrillator – a vest worn for approximately 3 months which can deliver shocks when appropriate
  •  internal defibrillator these have their issues including inappropriate shocks, or not shocking when should due to lead issues. They also require batteries to be changed approximately every 5 years.
  •  AED   Some choose to simply have an AED around them at all times, of course you need to have people trained to use it, unless you are James Bond
  •  Ablation The irritable nerves are burned out of the heart, this sometimes requires a permanent pacemaker placed
  •  medications to lessen the chances or arrhythmia


Responses, coping, support, are each critical. Every persons responds differently. Some are extremely grateful and feel like each day is a bonus. Others live in a state of Post traumatic stress and are waiting and fearful for the next arrest to occur. Because depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are common among people with implanted cardioverter defibrillators, healthcare providers should provide gender- and age-specific information on the potential psychological impact. Unfortunately these are areas that are rarely addressed or well comprehended by patients, who are in a state of emotional shock already from their recent health event and need time to process it all.

I recommend joining a support group or talking with a therapist to help cope with this. Below is a link to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association  and Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation which I think are some of the best support groups out there.  These include discussion forums, reflections, survivor stories. I have worked with many patients who have survived sudden cardiac arrest. Each has a unique story to tell, some are good and some are horrifying. A listening ear is one thing, but to get support from others who are living it is probably the best support one can get.

Support the Sudden Cardiac Arrest causes