Feature Article

Sudden cardiac death: identifying young people at risk

Atifur Rahman, Alexander Dashwood, Kuljit Singh



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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