Public health burden of sudden cardiac death in the United States

Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2014 Apr;7(2):212-7. doi: 10.1161/CIRCEP.113.001034. Epub 2014 Mar 7.


Background: Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a leading cause of death in the United States, but the relative public health burden is unknown. We estimated the burden of premature death from SCD and compared it with other diseases.

Methods and results: Analyses were based on the following data sources (using most recent sources that provided appropriately stratified data): (1) leading causes of death among men and women from 2009 US death certificate reporting; (2) individual cancer mortality rates from 2008 death certificate reporting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Program of Cancer Registries; (3) county, state, and national population data for 2009 from the US Census Bureau; and (4) SCD rates from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (SUDS) population-based surveillance study of SCD between 2002 and 2004. Cases were identified from multiple sources in a prospectively designed surveillance program. Incidence, counts, and years of potential life lost for SCD and other major diseases were compared. The age-adjusted national incidence of SCD was 60 per 100 000 population (95% confidence interval, 54-66 per 100,000). The burden of premature death for men (2.04 million years of potential life lost; 95% uncertainty interval, 1.86-2.23 million) and women (1.29 million years of potential life lost; 95% uncertainty interval, 1.13-1.45 million) was greater for SCD than for all individual cancers and most other leading causes of death.

Conclusions: The societal burden of SCD is high relative to other major causes of death. Accordingly, improved national surveillance with the goal of optimizing and monitoring SCD prevention and treatment should be a high priority.

Keywords: cause of death; death, sudden, cardiac; epidemiology of SCD; public policy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult