What is SCAD?

Finding hope in Knowledge

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is an under-diagnosed cause of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest. The inner lining of the coronary artery splits and allows blood to seep into the adjacent layer, forming a blockage (hematoma) or continuing to tear, creating a flap of tissue that blocks blood flow in the artery. It strikes without warning, traumatizing survivors. The cause of SCAD is currently unknown. Most doctors are unsure how to treat it.

Symptoms

Because spontaneous coronary artery dissection reduces or stops blood supply to the heart muscle, symptoms of SCAD include angina (chest pain) without having a heart attack or angina with heart attack.

Chest

Discomfort or pain described as pressure, tightness, squeezing, or elephant on the chest.

Upper Body

Radiating discomfort or pain into the arms, upper back, neck, or jaw.

Lungs

Shortness of breath ranging from trouble taking breaths to a smothering sensation.

Fatigue

Extreme exhaustion, unrelated to activity or sleep quality.

Sweating

Unexplained cold, clammy perspiration.

Nausea

Ranging from indigestion to vomiting

how-it-happens

How it Happens

Most SCAD patients experience heart attacks due to blocked arteries, but dissections may occur and not cause a heart attack. Depending on the percentage of blockage by a flap or blood clot, the heart muscle may not be damaged. Instead, the patient experiences what is called acute coronary syndrome (ACS).

If the artery is severely blocked, the heart muscle becomes starved for blood and the muscle tissue begins to die. In this case, the patient is having a heart attack, which can be diagnosed by testing for elevated troponin enzyme levels in the blood and by confirming changes in electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) readings.

Current research reports that more than 50% of SCADs are “ST Elevation myocardial infarctions,” the type of heart attack resulting in muscle damage. Nearly 25% of SCAD patients have multi-vessel dissections when diagnosed. However, OCT and IVUS are not available in all hospitals.)

Unknown and Overlooked

One of the most overlooked symptoms of SCAD? Death. It remains unknown how many people die of SCAD each year. Those who suffer cardiac arrest may not be identified as SCAD if the family does not request an autopsy. SCAD Alliance places great emphasis on education and awareness of SCAD in the medical community for this very reason. It is quite possible SCAD is an unrecognized subset of the 600,000 heart attack deaths each year in the U.S.

With increased awareness of SCAD among emergency medical professionals and more readily available Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), sudden cardiac arrest from SCAD can be caught in time.

unknown-overlooked

Downloads

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Scientific Paper

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection: Current Stat o fthe Science: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Free scientific article from the AHA Journal Circulation.

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PDF

The Vital Role of the ER in Improving Outcomes of SCAD

Which tests are appropriate in determining next steps for SCAD patients in the ER.

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PDF

SCAD Bookmark

Information about SCAD and SCAD Alliance in a handy, printable format.

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PDF

Answers Especially For You

Answers to common questions for SCAD survivors.

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TEXT BOOK

Read the SCAD Textbook

The entire SCAD textbook online.

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VIDEO

Ask the Experts

Video interview series on SCAD.