Causes of sudden cardiac death in young Australians

Med J Aust. 2004 Feb 2;180(3):110-2. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb05830.x.


Objectives: To determine the causes of sudden cardiac death in people aged 35 years or younger.

Design and setting: A review of all autopsies performed between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 2002 at a major Sydney forensic medicine department serving an area with over 2 million people.

Main outcome measures: Incidence of various types of cardiac disease causing sudden death in those aged <or= 35 years; proportion of deaths in which no cause was found at autopsy.

Results: There were 10 199 autopsies performed during the study period. Of these, 2986 (29.2%) deaths occurred in people aged <or= 35 years; 193 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths. The cause of sudden death in this group was not established in 60 (31%), and was presumed to be due to primary arrhythmogenic disorders. Coronary artery disease occurred in 46 (24%), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy/unexplained left ventricular hypertrophy in 29 (15%), and myocarditis in 23 (12%).

Conclusions: Unexplained deaths, presumed to result from sudden primary arrhythmogenic causes, occur in young Australians with structurally normal hearts. That underlying disease-causing genetic defects may be involved has clinical implications for family members.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies