What you need to know about Sudden Cardiac Arrest

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) Many people learned about Sudden Cardiac Arrest when Wes Leonard passed away a couple years ago; we all received a reminder when Ryan Fischer passed away in early March. Dr. Christopher Ratnasamy is a Pediatric Cardiologist with the Spectrum Health Medical Group, specially trained in electrophysiology, diagnosing and treating the electrical activities of the heart.

During Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the heart stops beating abruptly and no blood is pumped to the rest of the body. The heart “electricity” must be turned back on, typically through electrical shock. If the heartbeat is not restored with an electrical shock immediately, death follows within minutes.

What causes SCA?

  • Heart muscle problems
  • Primary heart electrical problems
  • Congenital coronary problems (Hypertropic cardiomyopathy, Long QT syndrome, etc)
  • Acute inflammation of the heart
  • Commotio cordis, an electrical disturbance caused by a blow to the chest

What signs should parents/coaches look for?

  • Family or personal history of heart problems
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting

Should students, particularly student athletes, be screened?

  • The American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a screening history and physical exam before playing sports.
  • More advanced heart screening, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram, is recommended if concerns are found.
  • We at Spectrum Health support the national recommendations which do not include EKG screening for sports.
  • On the other hand, we feel that if a parent and child want an EKG, and they understand the pros and cons, we will provide it.

How should you respond if a student collapses and heart stops beating during an event?

  • Responding quickly to an emergency is important to saving lives.
  • Start CPR.
  • Use an AED to restore heartbeat with an electrical shock ASAP.

Wes Leonard Sudden Cardiac Arrest Symposium

  • Thursday, May 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (program at 7 p.m.)
  • Free
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens
    1000 East Beltline Ave NE
  • To register: call (616) 267-2626, option 4
  • Information on risk factors and screening, how to respond in a cardiac emergency, and AED demonstration.


Congenital Heart Center
Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Floor 10
100 Michigan St. NE
(616) 267-9150

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