Researchers report that sudden cardiac arrest may be preceded with warning symptoms that occur in a number of patients days and weeks before the event.

About half of patients who experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrest reported symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath to family members, friends, or healthcare providers hours or weeks before, according to Sumeet Chugh, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and colleagues.

In addition, just one in five patients sought medical attention when these symptoms occurred, they wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

However, there was a six-fold increase in patient survival when 911 was called in response to symptoms (32.1%, 95% CI 21.8%-42.4%), versus when emergency response services were not called (6.0%, 95% CI 3.5%-8.5%).

Their findings are from the ongoing Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death prospective study (Oregon SUDS) of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

“The dogma has been that cardiac arrest is defined by its unexpected nature, but we found that warning symptoms did occur in a significant percentage of patients,” Chugh told MedPage Today. “This finding highlights a potential new window of opportunity to prevent deaths and even prevent sudden cardiac arrest from occurring.”

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