Methods: Causes of sudden death were investigated in 113 chronic dialysis patients who died during the 10-year period from July 1979 to January 1989; postmortem examination was performed on 93 of the cases (autopsy rate; 82.3%). Sudden death was regarded as death 24 h after the onset of acute illness in patients without any restriction in their daily activities. There were 35 sudden death cases out of the 93 autopsied chronic dialysis patients. We analysed the causes of sudden death for all chronic dialysis patients and for those who died suddenly.
Results: The mean age of the 93 cases was 61.4 +/- 10.5 years (+/-SD). Stroke was the most frequent cause of death (24 cases, 25.8%) in the 93 autopsied cases. This was followed by cardiac disease in 18 (19.4%), infectious disease in 16 (17.2%), malignancy in 14 (15.1%), and dissecting aortic aneurysm in 5 (5.4%). The mean age of the 35 sudden death cases was 60.9 +/- 10.9 years. Of the 35 sudden death cases in chronic dialysis patients, dissecting aortic aneurysm was the most common cause of sudden death (5 cases, 14.3%), followed by cerebral haemorrhage in three (8.6%), acute subdural haematoma in three (8.6%), acute myocardial infarction in two (5.7%), cerebral infarction in two (5.7%), and subarachnoidal haemorrhage in one (2.9%).
Conclusions: Dissecting aortic aneurysm, leading frequently to stroke as a cause of sudden death in chronic dialysis patients, at least in Japan, should be carefully differentiated from other cardiac diseases in chronic dialysis patients, such as severe atherosclerosis.