Sudden death in a 39-year-old woman due to three-vessel coronary artery disease: A case report and literature review

Med Sci Law. 2021 Jan;61(1_suppl):150-154. doi: 10.1177/0025802420929210.


Coronary atherosclerosis may be underestimated in previously asymptomatic and apparently healthy young people, although it has been reported in various epidemiological studies. Between 7% and 21% of sudden cardiac deaths in previously asymptomatic people aged <45 years are due to three-vessel coronary artery disease. So, clinical services need to vigilant for this condition. We report a single case of sudden death in a young woman who was affected by three-vessel coronary artery disease. This 39-year-old woman attended an emergency department for non-specific chest pain. After a brief observation period, in the absence of signs of an acute myocardial event, she self-discharged. However, she died suddenly the next day. The subsequent autopsy did not show significant pathological findings, although macroscopic examination of the heart revealed critical three-vessel coronary artery disease. Standard histological examination confirmed an atheromatous plaque obstructing >75% of the lumen of the anterior descending artery, complicated by haemorrhagic phenomena, with diffuse calcified and sub-totally occluded atherosclerotic plaques in the other vascular sections, without ischaemic signs of the cardiomyocytes or fibrosis. When young people present with chest pain, they must be carefully evaluated. Risks need to be clearly explained, particularly when self-discharge is requested.

Keywords: Three-vessel coronary disease; atherosclerosis; sudden death.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Coronary Artery Disease / complications*
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / pathology*