Clinical characteristics of unexpected death among young enlisted military personnel: results of a three-decade retrospective surveillance

Chest. 2004 Aug;126(2):528-33. doi: 10.1378/chest.126.2.528.


Study objective: To explore the causes of sudden and unexpected death in a young and healthy military population, to examine the various patterns of diseases associated with these tragic events, and to investigate the factors found to be associated with this grave outcome.

Design: We retrospectively investigated 151 cases of Israeli military personnel who died unexpectedly over a 30-year period. We collected all the available medical records, autopsy results, and investigation committee reports.

Results: A total of 151 cases of sudden and unexpected death occurred among enlisted military personnel during the period. Cardiac disorders caused 47% of deaths, followed by neurologic causes (17%) and pulmonary causes (11%). In 30 events (20%), the cause of death remained undetermined. Symptoms (eg, syncope, chest pain, palpitations, and others) occurred prior to death in 52 cases (34%). Asthma was the most common risk factor in our study population having been previously recognized in 10 cases (6.7%). Eight of the 13 subjects with asthma died following an acute asthmatic attack.

Conclusion: Cardiac events are the leading cause of unexpected death in young healthy people. The frequency of subjects with asthma was found to be higher than that in the general age-adjusted population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / mortality
  • Cause of Death
  • Death, Sudden*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Military Personnel*
  • Retrospective Studies