Symptoms preceding sudden cardiac death in the young are common but often misinterpreted

Scand Cardiovasc J. 2005 Jul;39(3):143-9. doi: 10.1080/14017430510009168.


Objectives: To identify patients at risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) by analysis of clinical history.

Design: A retrospective study of the Swedish cohort of 15-35 year olds having suffered an SCD during 1992-1999 and having undergone a forensic autopsy (162 individuals). We sought information in forensic, police and medical records and from interviews with family members.

Results: Syncope/presyncope, chest pain, palpitations or dyspnoea were present in 92/162, unspecific symptoms such as fatigue, influenza, headache or nightmares in 35/162. Syncope/presyncope was most common (42/162). In 74 seeking medical attention, 32 had an ECG recorded (24 pathological). In 26 subjects there was a family history of SCD.

Conclusions: The patient seeking medical advice before suffering an SCD is characterized by one to three of the following: 1) cardiac-related symptoms or non-specific symptoms often after an infectious disease, 2) a pathological ECG, 3) a family history of SCD. In 6 out of 10 a cardiac diagnosis was not considered. We conclude that symptoms preceding SCD were common but often misinterpreted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Databases as Topic
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Registries
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Syncope / diagnosis
  • Syncope / genetics