Sudden Cardiac Death
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is what happens when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating and blood flow to the brain and vital organs is restricted. Some SCDs are caused by heart arrhythmias, heart disease and electrical arrhythmias, but not all. SCDs can also be due to other causes such as trauma, drug overdoses or diseases other than in the heart itself. It is very important to measure and understand each and every SCD patient in order to develop treatments to decrease the number of SCDs in Canada.
SCD is major public health issue in Canada as it affects more than 40,000 Canadians each year and unfortunately only about 10% of victims survive. These persons are called “sudden cardiac death survivors”. Advances in medicine over the last 20 years have improved the treatment victims receive and moderately increased the survival rate but we now need to focus on understanding what triggers sudden cardiac death, how we might be able to prevent it and how we can improve life for those that survive. Understanding our success in reducing sudden cardiac death requires we be able to accurately measure the incidence and circumstances of SCD. This more intensive focus on cardiac arrest caused by heart disease and its underlying causes will be life-saving for those victims with undetected cardiac disease, families with poorly understood cardiac history and the public who need to recognize the signs of an impending arrest.
This project is a partnership between the Canadian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (CanROC) and the Cardiac Arrhythmia Network of Canada (CANet) to share the information we have about cardiac arrest and death in Canada. We will build a process for engaging with survivors, families and agencies who hold various types of information to capture data on the events and potential symptoms that happened before their cardiac event. We will also create a formal partnership with coroners’ departments in order to complete the full set of data on each victim. Having more in-depth knowledge of what may trigger an SCD before it happens will allow us to look for patterns or trends which will help us develop initiatives to prevent SCD. This kind of knowledge has the potential to directly save lives, save the health system millions of dollars and decrease the societal impact of the aftermath of cardiac death.
We have actively partnered with several survivors and families in developing this proposal and project plan. In particular, we have engaged a family member of an SCD victim as the co-lead of our program. We will develop a Survivor & Family Advisory Panel and look forward to having them involved in all aspects of the program and projects through a regular review and feedback process with the research team.
Dr. Paul Dorian
University of Toronto