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    Sudden Cardiac Death/Ventricular Fibrillation

Sudden Cardiac Death/Ventricular Fibrillation

figure 1

figure 1

The rhythm strip above (figure 1) shows the totally disorganised disturbance of rhythm, ventricular fibrillation, the common rhythm that causes sudden death.

The majority of patients who die suddenly and unexpectedly have coronary artery disease. Often this was previously unknown. In younger patients - typically age less than 35 years, one of a number of less common, although often inherited heart conditions may be the cause. These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome and the recently recognised Brugada syndrome.

Awareness of sudden death is important for a number of reasons

  1. Increasing number of people who collapse with ventricular fibrillation are successfully resuscitated. These patients must be investigated to identify possible underlying causes, such as coronary artery disease that can be treated. In addition, special devices such as the implantable defibrillator are commonly implanted. Evidence exists that these devices may prolong life.
  2. If young patients die suddenly, it is very important that close relatives are screened for inherited conditions that may place them at increased risk for the future. In selected relatives, treatment with the implantable defibrillator may be recommended.
  3. We are becoming increasingly skilled at identifying people who are at increased risk for dangerous arrhythmias, so that treatment can be offered. For instance, anyone who has suffered a heart attack in the past should probably undergo screening with an ultrasound scan of the heart to assess the degree of damage.

Please also see the sections on ventricular tachycardia, cardiomyopathy and implantable cardioverter defibrillator


London bridge hospital