Sudden cardiac arrest is common but need not be fatal

November 10, 2011

Thank you so much for bringing to your readers' attention the problem of sudden cardiac arrest with your front page story ("Team effort saves Baltimore runner," Nov. 9) on Robert Pohl's cardiac arrest near the completion of the Baltimore Half Marathon. Congratulations to those who saved his life and best wishes to him for a long life.

Although the article nicely stressed the fact that only a tiny fraction of victims of sudden cardiac arrest survive, and that a rapid sequence of recognition of the problem, CPR, and defibrillation with an automatic external defibrillator can result in saves, the paragraph about cardiac arrest being a rare event simply is not true. In fact, there are 34 cardiac arrests an hour in the U.S., or 295,000 per year, making it the most common cause of death in the United States.

Although only three of these 34 currently survive to be discharged from the hospital, we know that with more widespread education and availability of CPR and AEDs, many more victims of this common condition can survive.

Dr. Henry Jampel, Baltimore and Mary Newman, Pittsburgh

Dr. Jampel is a sudden cardiac arrest survivor and a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He serves on the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Advisory Council. Ms. Newman is president of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

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