Outside of the hospital, immediate treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) – a device that delivers an electrical shock to the heart – can help restore the heart's normal rhythm when victims experience cardiac arrest. AEDs are portable devices found in many public areas.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), when performed properly, can help provide adequate blood circulation until defibrillation and other emergency care is available. The odds of surviving cardiac arrest decline dramatically during every minute that defibrillation or CPR is not provided.

Once at the hospital, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute physicians have experience treating those who are either survivors of cardiac arrest or patients at a very high risk for cardiac arrest.

The recommended surgical treatment is often an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Our physicians may also prescribe medications or perform procedures to address underlying coronary artery disease and other problems that can cause cardiac arrest.

For comatose survivors of cardiac arrest, our physicians use the innovative Arctic Sun that circulates water in external cooling pads to lower a patient’s body temperature to between 32 and 34 degrees centigrade, inducing mild hypothermia. Therapeutic hypothermia helps reduce the risk of injury to the brain following cardiac arrest by blunting the body’s natural inflammatory response. The sooner cooling initiates, the better the outcome.

Inova Heart & Vascular Institute is proud to offer the world's first and only commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. This device is an implanted defibrillator with no heart-implanted wire electrodes. It was an Inova patient who received the first such device in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, metro area. Click to learn more about the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD System) from Boston Scientific.