According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, Sudden Cardiac Arrest accounts for more than 350,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In fact, SCA claims one life every 90 seconds, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS. Unfortunately, 95 percent of people who experience SCA die as a result, mainly because treatment within minutes is not accessible.

It is challenging to define what “unexpected” or “sudden” death is. SCD has been defined as unexpected death without an obvious non-cardiac cause that occurs within 1 hour of symptom onset (witnessed) or within 24 hours of last being observed in normal health (unwitnessed); however, this definition is difficult to apply in the real-world setting.


Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the condition in which the heart unexpectedly ceases to function. Often, this is because of irregular and rapid quivering of the heart’s lower pumping chambers (ventricles) called ventricular fibrillation. When this occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs, causing loss of consciousness or seizure-like activity in seconds.

If not treated within minutes, SCA results in death. The normal rhythm of the heart can only be restored with defibrillation, an electrical shock that is safely delivered to the chest by an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is NOT a heart attack, though it is frequently the outcome of an underlying heart condition. It can also occur secondary to other conditions such as impact to the chest, heat stroke, asthma, drowning, electrocution, allergic reaction, or medication. Victims of SCA may never experience any warning signs. Of these victims, the outcome is often sudden death for thousands of children, teens and young adults.

Cardiovascular disease is the second leading medical cause of death in children and adolescents in the United States.¹ And, SCA is the leading cause of death in student athletes during sports and exercise, with approximately 9,500 youth suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year. The true prevalence of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in youth, however, is unknown due to the lack of a mandatory and systematic national registry.

¹ Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Vital Statistics Report for 2005, published April 2008, Volume 56, Number 10


Many of the statistics set forth in this compilation are derived from the American Heart Association’s 2017 update on Heart & Stroke Statistics. 
people of all ages experience
EMS-assessed, out-of-hospital
non-traumatic SCA each year 
killer of student athletes
a young athlete dies every
72 hours from SCA
medical cause of death
among youth under 25
youth under age 18 suffer
out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
of SCA victims die because
there was a delay in
emergency response
1 in 300
youth have an undetected
heart condition that puts them
at risk for SCA
children under the age of 18
suffered from sudden cardiac arrest