Nationwide study of sudden cardiac death in persons aged 1-35 years

Eur Heart J. 2011 Apr;32(8):983-90. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehq428. Epub 2010 Dec 2.


Aims: The aim of this investigation was to study the incidence of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in persons aged 1-35 years in a nationwide setting (5.38 million people) by systematic evaluation of all deaths.

Methods and results: All deaths in persons aged 1-35 years in Denmark in 2000-06 were included. Death certificates were read independently by two physicians. The National Patient Registry was used to retrieve information on prior medical history. All autopsy reports were read and the cause of death was revised based on autopsy findings. We identified 625 cases of sudden unexpected death (10% of all deaths), of which 156 (25%) were not autopsied. Of the 469 autopsied cases, 314 (67%) were SCD. The most common cardiac cause of death was ischaemic heart disease (13%); 29% of autopsied sudden unexpected death cases were unexplained. In 45% of SCD cases, the death was witnessed; 34% died during sleep; 89% were out-of-hospital deaths. Highest possible incidence rate of SCD in the young was 2.8 per 100 000 person-years including non-autopsied cases of sudden unexpected death. Excluding those, the incidence rate declined to 1.9 per 100 000 person-years.

Conclusions: A total of 7% of all deaths in the young can be attributed to SCD, when including non-autopsied cases (autopsy ratio 75%). The incidence rate of SCD in the young of 2.8 per 100 000 person-years is higher than previously reported.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death Certificates
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult