As many as 450,000 Americans die every year from a sudden, fatal heart condition, and in slightly more than one in ten cases the cause remains unexplained even after an autopsy. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and their colleagues found that nearly 20 percent of patients with unexplained sudden cardiac death — most of whom were under age 50 — carried rare genetic variants. These variants likely raised their risk of sudden cardiac death. In some cases, their deaths may have been prevented if their doctors had known about their genetic predisposition to heart disease. The study findings were published last week in JAMA Cardiology.
“Genetic screening isn’t routinely used in cardiology, and far too many patients still die suddenly from a heart condition without having any previously established risk factors. We need to do more for them,” said study corresponding author Aloke Finn, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at UMSOM.