Background: The risk of sudden death from cardiac causes is increased among survivors of acute myocardial infarction with reduced left ventricular systolic function. We assessed the risk and time course of sudden death in high-risk patients after myocardial infarction.
Methods: We studied 14,609 patients with left ventricular dysfunction, heart failure, or both after myocardial infarction to assess the incidence and timing of sudden unexpected death or cardiac arrest with resuscitation in relation to the left ventricular ejection fraction.
Results: Of 14,609 patients, 1067 (7 percent) had an event a median of 180 days after myocardial infarction: 903 died suddenly, and 164 were resuscitated after cardiac arrest. The risk was highest in the first 30 days after myocardial infarction--1.4 percent per month (95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 1.6 percent)--and decreased to 0.14 percent per month (95 percent confidence interval, 0.11 to 0.18 percent) after 2 years. Patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction of 30 percent or less were at highest risk in this early period (rate, 2.3 percent per month; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.8 to 2.8 percent). Nineteen percent of all sudden deaths or episodes of cardiac arrest with resuscitation occurred within the first 30 days after myocardial infarction, and 83 percent of all patients who died suddenly did so in the first 30 days after hospital discharge. Each decrease of 5 percentage points in the left ventricular ejection fraction was associated with a 21 percent adjusted increase in the risk of sudden death or cardiac arrest with resuscitation in the first 30 days.
Conclusions: The risk of sudden death is highest in the first 30 days after myocardial infarction among patients with left ventricular dysfunction, heart failure, or both. Thus, earlier implementation of strategies for preventing sudden death may be warranted in selected patients.
Copyright 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.