Many of you have written to share your concerns about short term memory loss after survival from sudden cardiac arrest.
It may be comforting to know you are not alone. Many survivors in our registry report memory loss and other cognitive changes.
These changes can include forgetfulness, changes in learning ability, and difficulties with comprehension and problem solving. Not surprisingly, survivors affected by cognitive changes sometimes experience increased irritability, social isolation, subtle behavioral changes and impatience.
One study found about half of SCA survivors experience memory loss one year after the event. Another found that 40% of long-term survivors (21 months) report moderate to severe changes in both memory and concentration.
Mental status changes can be exasperated by depression and antiarrythmic drugs. And while implantable cardioverter defibrillator therapy (ICD) provides a sense of security to survivors, it is not unusual to be anxious about potential ICD shocks.
It may be helpful to recognize:
1. SCA represents both an individual and family crisis that requires energy and time for adaptation;
2. Learning new knowledge and skills is difficult at a time of crisis, when stress is high and coping strategies are low;
3. Short-term memory is impaired, physical symptoms are present, and energy is low in the first month after returning home;
4. The first three months after SCA are the most intense part of the recovery period;
5. Recovery from SCA is both a physical and an emotional event.
Whether you are a survivor or family member, your experiences related to memory loss may be helpful to others. We welcome your comments.
Source: Cynthia M. Dougherty, ARNP, PhD, “The Natural History of Recovery Following Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Internal Cardioverter-Defibrillator Implantation, Medscape, October 1, 2001.