Europace : European pacing, arrhythmias, and cardiac electrophysiology : journal of the working groups on cardiac pacing, arrhythmias, and cardiac cellular electrophysiology of the European Society of Cardiology

A comparison of genetic findings in sudden cardiac death victims and cardiac patients: the importance of phenotypic classification.

PMID 25345827


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is responsible for a large proportion of non-traumatic, sudden and unexpected deaths in young individuals. Sudden cardiac death is a known manifestation of several inherited cardiac diseases. In post-mortem examinations, about two-thirds of the SCD cases show structural abnormalities at autopsy. The remaining cases stay unexplained after thorough investigations and are referred to as sudden unexplained deaths. A routine forensic investigation of the SCD victims in combination with genetic testing makes it possible to establish a likely diagnosis in some of the deaths previously characterized as unexplained. Additionally, a genetic diagnose in a SCD victim with a structural disease may not only add to the differential diagnosis, but also be of importance for pre-symptomatic family screening. In the case of SCD, the optimal establishment of the cause of death and management of the family call for standardized post-mortem procedures, genetic screening, and family screening. Studies of genetic testing in patients with primary arrhythmia disorders or cardiomyopathies and of victims of SCD presumed to be due to primary arrhythmia disorders or cardiomyopathies, were systematically identified and reviewed. The frequencies of disease-causing mutation were on average between 16 and 48% in the cardiac patient studies, compared with ∼10% in the post-mortem studies. The frequency of pathogenic mutations in heart genes in cardiac patients is up to four-fold higher than that in SCD victims in a forensic setting. Still, genetic investigation of SCD victims is important for the diagnosis and the possible investigation of relatives at risk.