Sudden cardiac death: A reappraisal

TitleSudden cardiac death: A reappraisal
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSteinberg, C, Laksman, ZW, Krahn, AD
JournalTrends Cardiovasc Med.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is still among the leading causes of death in women and men, accounting for over 50% of all fatal cardiovascular events in the United States. Two arrhythmia mechanisms of SCD can be distinguished as follows: shockable rhythms (ventricular fibrillation and pulseless ventricular tachycardia) and non-shockable rhythms including asystole or pulseless electrical activity. The overall prognosis of cardiac arrest due to shockable rhythms is significantly better. While the majority of SCDs is attributed to coronary artery disease or other structural heart disease, no obvious cause can be identified in 5% of all events, and those events are labeled as sudden unexplained deaths (SUD). Those unexplained events are typically caused by rare hereditary electrical disorders or arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies. A systematic approach to the diagnosis of cardiac arrest followed by tailored therapy based on etiology has emerged in the last 10–15 years, with significant changes of medical practice and risk management of cardiac arrest victims. The aim of this review is to summarize our contemporary understanding of SCD/SUD in adults and to discuss current concepts of management and secondary prevention in cardiac arrest victims. A full discussion of the topic of primary prevention of SCD is beyond the scope of this article.