Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is an under-diagnosed cause of acute coronary syndrome, 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 continues 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.
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.
SCAD survivors report various cardiac symptoms, ranging from vague sensations to the full-on “Hollywood” 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
Diagnosis is the greatest challenge in treating spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
If emergency medical professionals look beyond the patient’s age and fitness to suspect SCAD, then there is hope for successful treatment. If the medical team sends the patient home with an antacid or treats the blockage as a classic plaque rupture, the end results can be deadly.