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Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome: a Silent Killer


  • Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome can occur in young men in the prime of their lives who may be planning a family.
  • Genetics are one of the major causes of Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome.
  • A regular body examination or a blood test will not be able to accurately evaluate the risk of a patient experiencing Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome.
Related information:
Precision Medicine | Preconception Genetic Testing | Targeted Therapy for Cancers | Oncogenetic Screening

You may have heard of Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome before, or of the group of symptoms referred to as the Brugada syndrome. These are irregular conditions that can cause the immediate and untimely death of a seemingly fit and healthy person with no clear indication of a deadly risk being present.

A person could be having a completely normal day and night, go to sleep and experience symptoms similar to those that occur when exercising, such as muscle contractions and frothing at the mouth. These symptoms could eventually lead to death.

Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome causes the unexpected death of adolescents and adults, mainly during sleep. The condition is most commonly found in young men between 25 to 45 years of age, which is the period of life when men are building their future with a family and career.

Such a sudden, unexpected death is extremely hard to deal with for relatives. It can lead to numerous problems for the people left behind, as the person who just succumbed to sudden death often was the main breadwinner of the family.

One common cause of the condition is a defect in the genes responsible for transmitting signals to the heart, causing the heart to beat irregularly. The condition mostly occurs when the victim is asleep. From the medical data currently available, it has been found that the number of genes responsible for this condition are less than 20. It has also been found that these genes may be stimulated by some types of medication, such as anesthetics or sleeping medication.

Who is at risk of Sudden Cardiac Death?

The syndrome has been found to especially affect ethnic groups from the Northeastern region of Thailand. In some of these provinces, there are myths surrounding the condition which is called a “widow’s spirit,” because the ones who lose their lives are usually young men in the prime of their lives. The truth however is that the syndrome is caused by genetics.

How can we find out if we are at risk of Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome?

A regular body examination or blood test will not be able to fully evaluate the risk of Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome. However, as medical technologies have progressed, it is now possible to analyze a person’s genetic code to evaluate the risk of developing the condition. This can be undertaken in conjunction with a targeted analysis of the patient’s cardiovascular structure, as well as with consultations with specialists in the fields of genetics and cardiovascular disease.

Can the condition be prevented?

Samitivej Hospital has the most innovative and modern medical technologies available to help prevent numerous diseases from occurring in people most at risk. Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome can be prevented by using the following methods:

  • Conducting an electrocardiogram (ECG) or attaching a special belt to assess heart capabilities can be carried out on patients of any age. These are effective initial screening techniques that can be carried out for those at minimal risk (in good health) as well as those more at risk due to cardiovascular irregularities.
  • Genetic analysis of the risks can determine whether a genetic defect which could cause the condition has been passed on. Those who have the syndrome identified in their family history as well as those whose families do not have a history of the condition may be screened, because not in all cases are historical irregularities a signifier of the disease.

If it is found that someone is at high risk of experiencing Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome, cardiovascular specialists may advise implanting an automatic implantable cardiovascular defibrillator (AICD) underneath the skin of the patient’s chest. This will help prevent the condition in vulnerable patients by regulating the heartbeat in the event of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.

Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome and many more conditions were once considered to be untreatable and something that people just had to live with. Nowadays however, thanks to innovative and progressive medical technologies as well as ever more knowledgeable and capable specialist doctors, these conditions are more deeply understood than ever before.

Preventive measures and accurately targeted treatments (Precision Medicine) are therefore on the rise, as are their capabilities and effectiveness.

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Related information:
Precision Medicine | Preconception Genetic Testing | Targeted Therapy for Cancers | Oncogenetic Screening

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Ph.D. Objoon Trachoo, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Internal Medicine