Spotlight Back on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

patient-monitoring-deviceRecent news reports of young American athletes collapsing during play or practice have drawn media attention to sudden cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Heart Rhythm Foundation, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) kills an estimated 325,000 people in the U.S. each year.  SCA is not the same as a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, in which a blood vessel blocks the flow of blood to the heart. In SCA, an electrical malfunction causes the heart to abruptly stop functioning. Sudden cardiac arrest can be prompted by cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or cardiomyopathy (abnormal heart muscle). A common cause of underlying heart problems is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic disorder that causes thickening of the heart muscle.

External defibrillators, portable devices used to “shock” the heart back into a normal rhythm, are the standard emergency treatment for patients suffering from SCA. An estimated 95 percent of SCA victims die before they can reach a hospital or other source of emergency help, so a growing number of schools, businesses, and other institutions across the U.S. are purchasing automated external defibrillators for use in the event of cardiac emergencies. According to market research firm Global Industry Analysts, Inc., the United States, Japan and Europe account for approximately 85 percent of the global external cardiac defibrillator market by sales. The European market alone is projected to reach $546 million by 2015. Cardiac Science Corporation, Biotronik Biomedical, ZOLL Medical Corporation, Medtronic and Elcare Innovations are among the companies that market external defibrillators.

Patients at high risk for SCA may choose to have implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) installed. ICDs detect abnormal heart rhythms and administer an electric shock if needed. Sorin Group, Boston Scientific and Biotronik Biomedical are just a few of the companies specializing in these devices. We reported in May that Cameron Health is currently testing the S-ICD System, the first minimally invasive, subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator for the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest. The S-ICD System is being commercialized in Europe, and Cameron Health is currently enrolling patients in an IDE pivotal trial to test the device. According to Global Industry Analysts, growth in the ICD market has been sluggish due to product recalls and adverse media publicity. However, future growth is anticipated due to an under-penetrated patient population. Global Industry Analysts forecasts that the U.S. market for internal/implantable cardiac defibrillators will reach $5.3 billion by 2010.

For additional information on SCA, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association has recent news, survivor stories, interactive activities, and more.

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