Sudden Cardiac Death

CANet > Our Work > Research > Sudden Cardiac Death

Cardiac Death

Dr. L. Brent Mitchell

The Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) research track aims to decrease SCD by 10% over 10 years.

CANet HighLight

CANet investigator study titled Remote Patient Management for Cardiac Implantable Electronic Devices (RPM-CIED) is assessing barriers, evaluating, and implementing a patient-oriented CIED management model that will help provide timely, uniform and efficient care for CIED patients through remote monitoring and programming across Canada.

Remote patient monitoring will also result in health care costs savings – through the reduction of inpatient and outpatient clinical services, and the potential reduction in stroke and sudden death through early detection of atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias.

Sudden Cardiac Death

Unexpected Heart Stoppage

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) happens when the heart unexpectedly stops working. SCD is usually caused by an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). When a person experiences SCD, he or she collapses, is unresponsive to touch or sound and usually stops breathing. SCD victims will die if they don’t receive emergency medical help. An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) must be used to restart the heart.

Up to 40,000 cardiac arrests happen in Canada each year. Your heart has a natural pacemaker, called the sinus node, which creates electrical impulses that cause your heart to beat. When there is a disorder in this electrical system, an arrhythmia may occur.


SCD occurs more frequently in people with heart disease, but may occasionally occur in active, healthy people who aren’t aware they have heart disease or other health problems.

SCD is usually caused by arrhythmias, and these arrhythmias may be triggered by other issues, including:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Other forms of heart disease (often undiagnosed)
  • Electrocution
  • (In children) Respiratory failure or shock

Factors that may increase the risk of SCD include:

  • A previous episode of SCD
  • Family history of SCD
  • A previous heart attack
  • A personal or family history of heart disease
  • Age
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Nutritional imbalance, such as low potassium or magnesium levels

If your doctor is concerned about the risk of SCD, the following tests may be ordered:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Holter monitor
  • Event monitor
  • Electrophysiology study

SCD may be prevented through medication, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or catheter ablation.

Reduce the Risk

  • Stay active
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Stop smoking
  • Monitor and treat conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes

What To Do

It’s important to act quickly when you see a Sudden Cardiac Death happen. The use of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) can make a big difference.

If you see an SCD happen:

  • Tell someone to call 911 or your local emergency response number.
  • Get an AED if one is available.
  • If the person isn’t breathing or is only gasping, start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Push down in the center of the

  • Use the AED as soon as it arrives by turning it on and following the prompts.
  • Keep pushing until the person starts to breathe or move, or someone with more advanced training takes over.

Our Impact

Working together, CANet members including our Network investigators, partners, and patients aim to REDUCE the incidence of sudden cardiac death by 10%. Below are some of the CANet-funded studies helping us achieve our goals.