Study Finds Cardiac Arrest a Leading Cause of Death

Jul 2, 2015

A new study by the Institute of Medicine suggests that cardiac arrest could be the third leading cause of death in the United States.

More than 600,000 people go into cardiac arrest each year outside of hospitals, and fewer than 6 percent of those survive. Dr. Dianne Atkins, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who worked on the report, says it’s important to distinguish cardiac arrest from a heart attack.

“A cardiac arrest is the immediate electrical abnormality of the heartbeat, so that the heart is unable to pump blood, and the person who experiences it collapses and loses consciousness immediately. A heart attack is a blockage in the heart, but the heart is still pumping blood,” she explains.

During this segment of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Atkins, who worked on a new report to identify ways to improve how we respond to and treat cardiac arrest. Kathy Jensen, whose children saved her life when she went into cardiac arrest at home, also joins the conversation.

Jensen says she woke up in the hospital after her cardiac arrest asking, ‘Where am I, what happened?”

“In 1999, I was in my home and was actually talking on the phone. I just collapsed. There really are no warning signs or symptoms; I can’t say this is what I was feeling. I was truly talking on the phone and I fell to the floor and have no memory of falling to the floor.”