Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death among adults over the age of 40 in the United States and other countries. In the United States alone, approximately 250,000 people die every year from SCA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, more people die each year from SCA than the number who die from colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, auto accidents, AIDS, firearms, and house fires combined.

SCA also affects many young people. Approximately 10 percent of SCA events occur among people less than 40 years of age.

SCA is a life threatening condition that can be treated successfully through early intervention with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), defibrillation, advanced cardiac life support and hypothermia.

Although the reported incidence in youth is less than that in adults, SCA is not a rare occurrence. In fact, SCA affects about 16 people under the age of 18 every day. The following statistics show that SCA is a public health crisis—and bystander intervention with CPR and AEDs can mean the difference between life and death.

Risk and Warning Signs

  • Family history of cardiac arrest in a first-degree relative: two-fold increase in risk of cardiac arrest.1
  • EMS-treated, non-traumatic cardiac arrest victims who have symptoms within one hour of death: 33%.1

Annual Incidence

  • Non-traumatic EMS-treated out-of-hospital SCA: 382,500;1
  • SCA (all causes) among youth <18 years old: 5,760; and1
  • SCA among students 17–24 participating in National Collegiate Athletic Association sports: one per 22,903 athlete participant years.
  • Higher among blacks than whites and higher among men than women.

Bystander Intervention in Cases of SCA

  • Rate of bystander CPR: 32%; and
  • Rate of bystander use of AEDs: 2%.2

Survival Rates

  • Survival with bystander CPR, but no AED use before EMS arrival: 9%;
  • Survival with bystander CPR, application of AED, and shock delivered before EMS arrival: 38%.2


  1. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM. Executive Summary: Heart disease and stroke statistics--2012 update: A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;125(1):188–197.
  2. Weisfeldt ML, Sitlani CM, Ornato JP. Survival after application of automatic external defibrillators before arrival of the emergency medical system: Evaluation in the resuscitation outcomes consortium population of 21 million. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010;55(16):1,713–1,720.