Unexplained sudden cardiac death is termed sudden arrhythmic death syndrome or SADS.
Over 1,000 individuals die suddenly each day in the United States. Most of these sudden deaths involve middle-aged or elderly individuals with heart problems. While sudden deaths in young people are rare, experts say they do have a tremendous impact on the medical community and the families.
Previous research indicates about 4 percent of sudden cardiac deaths are unexplained. Even postmortem results indicate normal heart function before death. Researchers investigated if these unexplained deaths could be a result of inherited heart disease.For the study, researchers looked at first degree relatives of 32 people who died of SADS. The average age of the individuals who died was 30 years old. Researchers say they found one in four of the families were diagnosed with inherited heart disease. Specifically, the relatives either had dysfunction of the electrical cardiac system or heart-muscle abnormalities.
In those families diagnosed with inherited heart disease, there had been significantly more sudden cardiac deaths among relatives than in the other families. If these sudden deaths had prompted family screening, particularly of relatives with symptoms, some of those deaths may have been prevented , say researchers.
Thus researchers say it seems reasonable to recommend a screening for first-degree relatives of those who died from a sudden unexplained death. But they add further research is needed to better understand the most cost-effective standard of care and also how to help those left behind after a sudden unexplained death.