Murray, Utah (10/14/08) - Cardiologists at Intermountain Medical Center have added another instrument in their fight to save lives: YouTube.
The doctors are working to spread the word about the leading cause of death in the United States – sudden cardiac arrest, which claims an estimated 350,000 lives each year. That’s more than breast cancer, lung cancer and AIDS combined. And Utah has one of highest rates of death from cardiac arrest in the nation.
Among the tools the physicians are using to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest is the web, including a two-minute video that is posted on Youtube to educate people about the dangers of sudden cardiac arrest.
Sometimes called the “silent killer,’ sudden cardiac arrest, is the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear. The most common reason for patients to die suddenly is cardiovascular disease, in particular, coronary heart disease. Earlier this year, sudden cardiac arrest killed journalist Tim Russert.
"A lot of people think that sudden cardiac arrest is a heart attack, but it’s not,’ says Dr. John Day, one of the cardiologists who is leading the effort at Intermountain Medical Center to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest. “In a heart attack, blood flow is blocked to the heart. Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem – the heart just stops beating. A simple shock from a defibrillator, delivered within a couple of minutes, can save a person’s life,” he says.
The YouTube video illustrates how quickly someone can die from sudden cardiac arrest. In fact, an estimated 95 percent of victims die before they reach emergency help. It also explains that anyone can be at risk: Although the average victim is about 60 years old, sudden cardiac arrest can affect anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. It occurs most often in patients with heart disease, especially those who have congestive heart failure and have had a heart attack.
But the video clip also stresses that a simple ultrasound test can uncover potentially fatal problems, and a defibrillator can save lives. Portable defibrillators are turning up in more and more places such as, airplanes, gyms, and shopping malls. They can also be implanted into a person’s heart.
Scott Nemelka’s defibrillator has saved his life at least five times. The 47-year-old father of four discovered he had a heart problem 10 years ago when he nearly blacked out while playing basketball. He knew it was a sign of the hereditary heart-rhythm problem that killed his father and five of his uncles, and also affects his brother.
Doctors put him on medication and implanted a defibrillator in his chest. Now, if his heart begins to race, he gets a strong electric jolt that resets it.
“I don’t need to worry about my heart problem taking me anymore. The defibrillator will be there to save me,” he says. “It’s given me a lot of confidence that I can live a normal life. I play racquetball, I exercise, I hunt. I can live without fear, no hesitation.”
“My family and I feel incredibly fortunate that we live in a time when this kind of technology is available,” he says.
The YouTube video is just the latest step Intermountain Medical Center cardiologists have taken to make medical education available worldwide via the Web. Earlier this fall, Dr. Day and cardiologists at the hospital organized a “virtual” symposium on heart rhythm disorders that was attended by more than a thousand physicians from all over the world. And last year, he did a live broadcast of a pioneering cardiac procedure over the Internet. Thousands of physicians tuned in and learned how to provide the same care to their own patients.
"The Internet can be a tremendous tool for helping people here in Utah, as well as doctors and patients around the world,” Dr. Day says. “We want people to be proactive and to understand their risks and know whether they should be evaluated. Sudden cardiac death claims so many lives, but there’s a lot we can do to prevent it.”
The YouTube public service video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3omQ_mKBPs