Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome: a national survey of sudden unexplained cardiac death

Behr, E. R.; Casey, A.; Sheppard, M.; Wright, M.; Bowker, I. J.; Davies, M. J.; Mckenna, W. J.; Wood, D. A.
May 2007
Heart;May2007, Vol. 93 Issue 5, p601
Academic Journal
Objective: To describe the characteristics of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) and compare its incidence with official national mortality statistics for unascertained deaths. Design and setting: Sudden unexplained deaths were prospectively surveyed through 117 coroners' jurisdictions in England. Consecutive cases meeting the following criteria were included: white Caucasian, aged 4-64 years, no history of cardiac disease, last seen alive within 12 h of death, normal coroner's autopsy, cardiac pathologist's confirmation of a normal heart and negative toxicology Main outcome measures: The estimated mortality from SADS was calculated and the official mortality statistics for unascertained causes of deaths in 4-64-year-olds was identified for the same time period. Results: 115 coroner's cases were reported and 56 (49%) SADS victims were identified: mean age 32 years, range 7-64 years and 35 (63%) male. 7 of 39 cases (18%) had a family history of other premature sudden deaths (<45). The estimated mortality from SADS was 0.16/100 000 per annum (95% CI 0.12 to 0.21), compared with an official mortality of 0.10/100 000 per annum for International Classification of Diseases 798.1 (sudden death, cause unknown—instantaneous death) or 1.34/100 000 per annum for unascertained causes of death. Conclusions: Deaths from SADS occur predominantly in young males. When compared with official mortality, the incidence of SADS may be up to eight times higher than estimated: more than 500 potential SADS cases per annum in England. Families with SADS carry genetic cardiac disease, placing them at risk of further sudden deaths. SADS should therefore be a certifiable cause of death prompting specialised cardiological evaluation of families.


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