Sudden cardiac death in the young (5-39 years) in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland

BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2014 Oct 7:14:140. doi: 10.1186/1471-2261-14-140.


Background: Sudden cardiac death (SCD) among the young is a rare and devastating event, but its exact incidence in many countries remains unknown. An autopsy is recommended in every case because some of the cardiac pathologies may have a genetic origin, which can have an impact on the living family members. The aims of this retrospective study completed in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland were to determine both the incidence of SCD and the autopsy rate for individuals from 5 to 39 years of age.

Methods: The study was conducted from 2000 to 2007 on the basis of official statistics and analysis of the International Classification of Diseases codes for potential SCDs and other deaths that might have been due to cardiac disease.

Results: During the 8 year study period there was an average of 292'546 persons aged 5-39 and there were a total of 1122 deaths, certified as potential SCDs in 3.6% of cases. The calculated incidence is 1.71/100'000 person-years (2.73 for men and 0.69 for women). If all possible cases of SCD (unexplained deaths, drowning, traffic accidents, etc.) are included, the incidence increases to 13.67/100'000 person-years. However, the quality of the officially available data was insufficient to provide an accurate incidence of SCD as well as autopsy rates. The presumed autopsy rate of sudden deaths classified as diseases of the circulatory system is 47.5%. For deaths of unknown cause (11.1% of the deaths), the autopsy was conducted in 13.7% of the cases according to codified data.

Conclusions: The incidence of presumed SCD in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, is comparable to the data published in the literature for other geographic regions but may be underestimated as it does not take into account other potential SCDs, as unexplained deaths. Increasing the autopsy rate of SCD in the young, better management of information obtained from autopsies as well developing of structured registry could improve the reliability of the statistical data, optimize the diagnostic procedures, and the preventive measures for the family members.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death Certificates
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult