Global public health problem of sudden cardiac death

J Electrocardiol. Nov-Dec 2007;40(6 Suppl):S118-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jelectrocard.2007.06.023.


Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of global mortality, accounting for almost 17 million deaths annually or 30% of all global mortality. In developing countries, it causes twice as many deaths as HIV, malaria and TB combined. It is estimated that about 40-50% of all cardiovascular deaths are sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) and about 80% of these are caused by ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Therefore, about 6 million sudden cardiac deaths occur annually due to ventricular tachyarrhythmias. The survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is less than 1% worldwide and close to 5% in the US. Prevention of cardiovascular disease by increasing awareness of risk factors such as lack of exercise, inappropriate diet and smoking has reduced cardiovascular mortality in the US over the past few decades. However, there is still a huge cardiovascular disease burden globally as well as in the US. Therefore, there is a need to develop complementary strategies for management of sudden cardiac death. The data from several trials conclusively indicate that implantable defibrillators improve mortality in patients who have experienced an episode or are at high risk of developing ventricular tachyarrhythmias. These devices are reimbursed and are being used frequently in the developed economies for management of SCD. However, due to that low level of public and private health spending in developing economies and the relatively high cost of ICDs, their implant rates are very low there. The Automatic External Defibrillators and Emergency Medical Response Services equipped with AEDs provide complementary as well as alternative opportunities for management of SCD. There are several challenges associated with the adoption of these strategies. The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these strategies need to be compared with ICDs to determine the appropriate strategy for various geographies. The global problem of SCD as well as the various options for its management will be discussed in the presentation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors