Use and accuracy of state death certificates for classification of sudden cardiac deaths in high-risk populations

Am Heart J. 1997 Dec;134(6):1129-32. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8703(97)70035-8.


In a large cohort of patients with known or suspected coronary disease, we evaluated the characteristics of 407 patients who died after hospital discharge and tested whether the state death certificate can be used to classify deaths as sudden cardiac versus nonsudden. Compared with a paramedic classification system based on heart rhythm, the death certificate-based classification resulted in a sensitivity that ranged from 78% to 85% and a specificity that ranged from 25% to 58%. We conclude that the death certificate can be used to identify cases of sudden cardiac death in patients at high risk; however, there is a substantial rate of false-positive sudden death classification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Death Certificates*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity