Diagnostic Approach to Unexplained Cardiac Arrest (from the FIVI-Gen Study)

Am J Cardiol. 2015 Sep 15;116(6):894-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2015.06.030. Epub 2015 Jun 27.


Unexplained cardiac arrest (UCA) can be caused by low-penetrance genetic disorders. The aim of this cross-sectional study is to assess the usefulness of a new diagnostic protocol: Thirty-five patients were recruited from 9 Spanish centers. Electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and coronary catheterization were used to rule out electrical or structural heart disease in all subjects. Patients underwent pharmacologic tests with epinephrine and flecainide, followed by assessment of family members using electrocardiogram and echocardiogram, and next-generation genetic sequencing to analyze 126 genes if all the other test results were negative. A firm diagnosis of channelopathy required phenotypic proof of the condition in unmasking tests, the presence of a pathogenic variant consistent with the phenotype observed, and/or co-segregation of the mutation found in a family member's phenotype. A firm diagnosis was made in 18 cases. The diagnoses were 7 Brugada syndrome, 5 catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, 3 long QT syndrome, 2 early repolarization syndrome, and 1 short QT syndrome. Pharmacologic testing was the most frequent method of diagnosis. In 5 cases, the diagnosis was made based on positive genetic testing without phenotypic alterations. In conclusion, this sequential diagnostic protocol allows diagnoses to be made in approximately half of the UCA cases. These diagnoses are low clinical penetrance channelopathies. If interpreted carefully, genetic tests can be a useful tool for diagnosing UCA without a phenotype.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / complications
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Brugada Syndrome / complications
  • Brugada Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Cardiac Catheterization / methods
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Echocardiography / methods
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Epinephrine
  • Family
  • Female
  • Flecainide
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome / complications
  • Long QT Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / complications
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Flecainide
  • Epinephrine

Supplementary concepts

  • Polymorphic catecholergic ventricular tachycardia
  • Short Qt Syndrome