Cardiac arrest statistics reveal that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) continues to be a major cause of death and permanent disability in the United States and around the world, despite the availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and widespread CPR training. Being aware of the most recent statistics and the factors that affect survival rates can help you to be better prepared to save a life.
Cardiac Arrest Statistics Sources
Many of the statistics in this article come from the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC), 2005-2015, and the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES). Unless otherwise noted, the statistics come from the “American Heart Association Heart and Stroke Statistics – 2022 Update.”
Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests (OHCAs)
OHCA in Adults
- There are around 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States each year.
- Nearly 90% of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests are fatal.
- The most common location for OHCA is in the home. According to CARES data from 2020, 73.9% of cardiac arrests in adults occurred in a residence, 15.1% in a public place, and 10.9% in nursing homes.
OHCA in Children
- According to a data analysis published in the Resuscitation Journal, around 23,514 OHCAs occurred in children in 2016. (source, USA)
- 87.5% of pediatric cardiac arrests occurred in the home and 12.2% in a public place (CARES, USA, 2020).
SCA, SCD, and Sports
SCA and SCD in Athletes of All Ages
- Sudden cardiac death occurs in around 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year (source, review of studies on athletes aged 9-40 years).
- Men, black athletes, and basketball players have a statistically higher risk of sudden cardiac death (source, review of studies on athletes aged 9-40 years).
SCA in Young Athletes
- 39% of sudden cardiac arrest cases in minors were sports-related (Portland, OR, 2002-2015).
- Only 1.47% of 5,169 middle and high school students screened had a high-risk cardiovascular condition (USA, 2010-2017).
- The most common heart conditions that caused SCA in young athletes in the USA between 1980 and 2011 were:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Coronary artery abnormalities
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
- Coronary artery disease
- Commotio Cordis (AHA Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2019 update)
Impact of COVID on Cardiac Arrest Statistics
- There were three times as many out-of-hospital cardiac arrests attended by emergency medical services in New York City between March 1-April 25, 2020 compared to the year before.
- CARES data shows that CPR for OHCA was more likely to be delayed once the pandemic began and fewer bystanders used an automated external defibrillator compared to the same time a year before.
- A systematic review referenced in the European Resuscitation Council Guidelines – Executive Summary 2021 reported similar patterns in Europe: An increased incidence of OHCA and reduced use of AEDs compared to the year before. Additionally, ambulance response times were longer, and fewer SCA patients had AED shockable rhythms.
Bystander Response to OHCA
- A victim’s chances of survival drop by 10-15% with each minute that cardiopulmonary resuscitation is delayed (source 1, a Southwestern U.S. city and a Northwestern U.S. county, 1997, source 2, Norway, 1998-2001).
- Bystander CPR administered within minutes of cardiac arrest can double or triple survival rates and lead to better neurological outcomes one month after the event (source 1, Japan, 2005-2007, source 2, Sweden, 1990-2002).
- Bystander CPR was administered in 40.8% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in 2020. The highest rates of bystander CPR were observed in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Vermont (CARES, USA).
- Lower rates of bystander CPR were reported for low-income Black neighborhoods and predominantly Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods compared to high-income White neighborhoods.
- An automated external defibrillator was used by a layperson in 9% of OHCAs in 2020 up from an average of 5.8% between 2011 and 2020 (CARES, USA). The easy-to-use design of AEDs like the Philips HeartStart FRx and HeartSine Samaritan PAD 350P, along with an increase in AED-friendly laws, could be part of the reason that more AEDs are being deployed successfully before EMS teams arrive.
In-Hospital Cardiac Arrests
- The top causes of in-hospital cardiac arrest from 2000 to 2002 were cardiac arrhythmia, acute respiratory insufficiency, and hypotension (source, USA).
- Only 14% of children and 23% of adults who suffered in-hospital cardiac arrest had an AED shockable rhythm as the first documented pulseless rhythm before the onset of pulseless electrical activity or asystole (source, USA and Canada, 2000-2004).
- Of those adults and children who had ventricular fibrillation, only 1.4% were administered an initial shock (source, USA and Canada, 2000-2004).
- Over 80% of in-hospital cardiac arrest cases were fatal (source, USA and Canada, 2000-2004).
- Pediatric patients with in-hospital cardiac arrest had higher survival rates than adults (source, USA and Canada, 2000-2004).
- Adults who survived in-hospital events had better neurological outcomes than children (source, USA and Canada, 2000-2004).
Clinical Outcome of Cardiac Arrests
- According to 2020 data from CARES, survival to hospital discharge in EMS-treated OHCA was:
- 9% for adults (7% with good functional status)
- 6.5% for infants 0-11 months
- 14.4% for children 1-12
- 21.2% for children 13-18
- According to a registry of paramedic responses between 2009 and 2014, 43.8% of athletes survived to hospital discharge after a sudden cardiac arrest that occurred during competitive sports.
- Functional recovery after SCA takes at least 12 months for children and 6 to 12 months for adults.
- Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest in a cohort study of 141 people experienced:
- Severe cognitive deficits (13%)
- Depression and anxiety (15%)
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress (28%)
- Severe fatigue (52%)
- Return to work after 12 months (72%)
- 65% of Americans report having been trained in standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation at some point.
- Hispanic/Latino, elderly, lower-income, and less educated groups report lower levels of training in adult basic life support.
Turning These Cardiac Arrest Statistics Into Action
Going by these recent statistics, cardiac arrest remains a significant cause of death and reduced quality of life despite increased awareness and access to AEDs.
To reduce deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, it’s important to:
- Prepare more rapid response teams specifically for SCA.
- Provide mandatory CPR training in all high schools around the nation.
- Improve nutrition and exercise in the population, thus reducing many of the risk factors for SCA.
To lower the number of SCA-related deaths in hospitals, further research is needed on the topics of:
- Early defibrillation
- Emergency medicine
- Emergency cardiovascular care
- Pediatric advanced life support
- Advanced life support drugs
For most people, the takeaway from these cardiac arrest statistics is to take (or refresh) your CPR and AED training to be ready to help in an emergency. You never know when you might see someone collapse or find them already collapsed and unconscious. And when you do, being prepared to help with immediate chest compressions and an automated external defibrillator might just save their life.