Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) or cardio-circulatory arrest, commonly known as sudden death is due to a circulatory collapse related to a heart muscle dysfunction.

Cardiac arrest is associated in all cases to resipartory arrest and loss of consciousness. The victim is unresponsive, not moving, she is unconscious and not breathing.

Without a rapid intervention of EMS, the chances of survival of the victim are slim.


In adults, 90% of sudden cardiac arrest are linked to a rhythm disorder called ventricular fibrillation. Fibrillation is a disorder of the heart’s activity corresponding to the rapid contraction, disorganized and ineffective of cardiac ventricles. On the electrocardiogram (ECG) corrugations can be seen more or less fine and disorganized.


Ventricular fibrillation

The causes of fibrillation are multiple: myocardial infarction, cardiac abnormalities, electrocution, drowning or poisoning.

Only an electrical shock can restore the normal electrical activity of the heart.


The victim of cardiac arrest loses consciousness suddenly. She falls and does not react to stimulations. She’s not breathing or shows erratic and ineffective respiratory movements.

Loss of consciousness may be preceded by suggestive signs of a heart attack such as chest pain or tightness but it usually occurs without warning.



1. Call
Once you have found that the victim is unconscious and not breathing, you should call for help by dialing the emergency medical services (EUrope, 112, 911 US, 999 UK,…).

2. Chest Compression
The victim must be lying on her back on a hard surface. Kneel beside her and put your hands on one another by pressing with the heel of the hand on the breastbone in the middle of the chest, your arms are outstretched.
Your shoulders should be in alignment with your hands.
Give chest compressions at a frequency of 100 per minute using your weight to push the sternum 4 to 5 cm deep.

3. Defibrillate
Upon the arrival of an automated external defibrillator (AED), open, apply the pads on the chest of the victim and follow the voice instructions.
The use of an AED does not require training, this is a very simple device to use and completely safe for you and the victim.
Combined with CPR, the use of a defibrillator multiplies by 10 the chance of saving the victim.

4. Wait for emergency services
Let the pads in place and continue CPR if necessary until help arrived.

400.000 people die each year of cardiac arrest in Europe (50.000 in France). This represents more than 1.000 deaths per day! This figure rises to 7 million worldwide.

In almost 70% of cases, sudden cardiac arrest takes place before a witness, yet the average survival rate is around 7%, compared to 40% in Amsterdam (Netherlands), Seattle (USA) or in Lugano (Switzerland).

According to medical research, early defibrillation could save many thousands of people each year.

In case of sudden cardiac arrest, time is a key factor which conditions survival chances.
Beyond 4 minutes, it is estimated that for every minute that passes, the chances of survival decrease by 10%. Without oxygen, the brain can be severely damaged and present afterwards heavy sequelae.
In less than 10 minutes without resuscitation, the vital prognosis of the victim can be fatal. Given the time required for Emergency to arrive on the scene of the accident, it is essential that witnesses of cardiac arrest can call for help and begin resuscitation of the victim with CPR.

Nearly 120,000 Defibrillators (AEDs) are listed worldwide in the Staying Alive application developed  by AEDMAP and AJILA Foundation.
This application offers multiple features and services including:

  • AED Location and new defibrillator registration
  • Tutorials on CPR (chest compression, AED usage)
  • First Responders

Staying Alive is freely available for iPhone & Android.