Sudden cardiac death (SCD) remains a daunting problem. It is a major public health issue for several reasons: from its prevalence (20% of total mortality in the industrialized world) to the devastating psycho-social impact on society and on the families of victims often still in their prime, and it represents a challenge for medicine, and especially for cardiology. This text summarizes the discussions and opinions of a group of investigators with a long-standing interest in this field. We addressed the occurrence of SCD in individuals apparently healthy, in patients with heart disease and mild or severe cardiac dysfunction, and in those with genetically based arrhythmic diseases. Recognizing the need for more accurate registries of the global and regional distribution of SCD in these different categories, we focused on the assessment of risk for SCD in these four groups, looking at the significance of alterations in cardiac function, of signs of electrical instability identified by ECG abnormalities or by autonomic tests, and of the progressive impact of genetic screening. Special attention was given to the identification of areas of research more or less likely to provide useful information, and thereby more or less suitable for the investment of time and of research funds.
Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Cardiac function; Electrical instability; Genetics; Risk stratification; Sudden cardiac death.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.