Scope and nature of sudden cardiac death before age 40 in Ontario: A report from the Cardiac Death Advisory Committee of the Office of the Chief Coroner Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Understanding sudden cardiac death in the young may inform prevention strategies. OBJECTIVE: To determine the scope and nature of sudden death in a geographically defined population. METHODS: We performed a retrospective population-based cohort study in Ontario, Canada, of all sudden cardiac death cases involving persons aged 2-40 years identified from the 2008 comprehensive Coroner database. Of 1741 Coroner's cases, 376 were considered potential sudden cardiac death cases and underwent review. RESULTS: There were 174 cases of adjudicated sudden cardiac death from a population of 6,602,680 persons aged 2-40 years. Structural heart disease was present in 126 cases (72%), 78% of which was unrecognized. There was no identifiable cause of death in 48 cases (28%), representing primary arrhythmia syndromes. The majority of decedents were men (76%) over the age of 18 (90%). The overall incidence of sudden cardiac death increased with age from 0.7/100,000 (2-18 years) to 2.4/100,000 (19-29 years) to 5.3/100,000 (30-40 years) person-years. Persons experiencing sudden cardiac death before age 30 were more likely to have a primary arrhythmia syndrome (odds ratio 2.97; P<.001). The majority of events occurred in the home (72%); 33% of the events in children/adolescents and 9% of the events in adults occurred during reported moderate or vigorous exercise (P = .002). There were no pediatric deaths during organized competitive sports. CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of sudden cardiac death increases with age, typically occurring in a man at rest in the home with unrecognized underlying heart disease or a primary arrhythmia syndrome. Prevention strategies should consider targeting identification of unrecognized structural heart disease and primary arrhythmia syndromes.


  • Pilmer, Caileigh M
  • Porter, Bonita
  • Kirsh, Joel A
  • Hicks, Audrey Lyn
  • Gledhill, Norman
  • Jamnik, Veronica
  • Faught, Brent E
  • Hildebrandt, Doris
  • Mccartney, Neil
  • Gow, Robert M
  • Goodman, Jack
  • Krahn, Andrew D

publication date

  • April 2013

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