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Feature Article

Sudden cardiac death: identifying young people at risk

Atifur Rahman, Alexander Dashwood, Kuljit Singh

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Abstract

Although epidemiological risk factors for sudden cardiac death (SCD) such as age, prior myocardial infarction and low ejection fraction are well established, the syndrome also has a strong genetic component. Identifying high-risk candidates and subsequent referral can significantly reduce the incidence of SCD among first-degree relatives.

Key Points

  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an unexpected natural death, with loss of consciousness within an hour of symptom onset, due to a previously unknown cardiac cause.
  • Taking a thorough history, performing a cardiovascular examination and ECG, and appropriate referral may reduce the incidence of SCD among first-degree relatives of people who experience SCD.
  • The aetiology of SCD can be broadly classified into structural, electrical and acquired causes.
  • Structural cardiac diseases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are the most common cause of SCD in young people (aged less than 35 years). 


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