Risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest (also called sudden cardiac death) is the single most common cause of death in America.

Medical research shows that sudden cardiac arrest is fatal 95% of the time. Most of the patients who received very quick treatment survive, but it is often challenging to get that treatment initiated before there is permanent damage to the brain and other vital organs. Experts recommend rapid treatment with an automated external defibrillator.

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical dysfunction of the heart that causes the heart to suddenly and unexpectedly stop beating. When this occurs, blood flow to the brain and other critical organ stops.

Generally speaking, sudden cardiac arrest is triggered by a rhythm disorder, called an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow, or irregular. An arrhythmia that causes the heart to stop pumping blood causes sudden cardiac death.

Some laypeople confuse sudden cardiac arrest with a heart attack, but they are distinguishable. While sudden cardiac arrest is caused by an arrhythmia that causes the heart to stop beating, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, but the heart does not typically stop beating.

Risk factors

The most significant risk factor for sudden cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, coronary heart disease often has no noticeable signs and symptoms, causing many people to not discover that they have this condition until they experience sudden cardiac arrest. In addition, some people also have undiagnosed heart attacks before sudden cardiac arrest occurs.

Other significant risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest include a past medical history of arrhythmias, a family history of sudden cardiac arrest or arrhythmia disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, heart failure, or heart attack.


If you have any of the risk factor for sudden cardiac death, most experts recommend being closely followed by a physician.

For people with no known risk factors for sudden cardiac death, research recommends being on the lookout for angina, which is chest pain or discomfort. Congestive heart disease causes most sudden cardiac arrest cases and is also a major risk factor for angina, so this could be an early indicator of an increased risk.

For people at a high risk for a first sudden cardiac arrest, including patients with severe coronary heart disease or heart attack survivors, many experts recommend a beta blocker or statin medications.

Many expert cardiologists and electrophysiologists (specialists in critical rhythm disorders) recommend that patients who have survived sudden cardiac arrest have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which is similar to a pacemaker. This recommendation is based on the high risk of recurrence for sudden cardiac arrest survivors.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured as a result of medical negligence, call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas, where he focuses on medical malpractice cases. Recognized as one of Houston’s top lawyers by Houstonia and H Texas magazines, he files medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of patients and their families, against cardiologists, electrophysiologists, surgeons, doctors, and hospitals.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.