Sudden Death Screening

Heart & Cardiac Screenings

Sudden death syndrome refers to sudden unexpected death that occurs while asleep or awake and while active or inactive. Sudden death syndrome is the term often applied to the sudden unexpected cardiac death in young people under the age of 35. Some researchers are now studying a possible link to SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome). Most often, sudden death syndrome (SDS) is associated with an undiagnosed pre-existing heart condition. Some incidents of SDS may be referenced as sudden cardiac death syndrome or sudden arrhythmia death.

The majority of occurrences are linked to hereditary cardiac disease or untreated pre-existing cardiovascular symptoms. Sudden cardiac death syndrome is caused by a heart attack or cardiac arrest that is un-resuscitated. Sudden arrhythmia death (SAD) is usually caused by a sudden change in the heart’s normal rhythm (an arrhythmia) or an erratic heartbeat.

Unexpected heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests can usually be linked to an undiagnosed pre-existing condition. Undiagnosed structural abnormalities of the heart or undetected arterial blockages, for example, can cause sudden death syndrome. Victims of heart attack or cardiac arrest must receive immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation to avoid impending death.
Sudden arrhythmia death is most commonly caused by cardiomyopathies, congenital coronary artery abnormalities, arythmia syndromes or structural abnormalities. Myocarditis, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, ventricular tachycardia, congenital long OT syndrome and aortic rupture are some heart conditions that can lead to SAD.

Fortunately, many deaths occurring as a result of sudden death syndrome can prevented. A healthy lifestyle, risk factor awareness and appropriate healthcare can help prevent SDS. Eating healthy, increasing physical activity, avoiding tobacco use and implementing effective stress management are some proactive steps you can take to help improve and maintain your health.

Personal or family history of cardiac disease or SDS, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use and drug use are risk factors that need to be assessed. Dr. Alonso will evaluate your risk factors and perform a physical examination to determine if sudden death syndrome screening tests are warranted. Early detection and treatment of conditions linked to sudden death syndrome are the best methods of prevention.

Initial screening tests will likely include blood tests and an electrocardiogram. For more definitive results you may receive two electrocardiogram screenings, one while lying down and another during an exercise stress test. Depending on tests results or if you have any symptoms, Dr. Alonso may want you to wear a Holter monitor for several days. It is a small, easy to use, monitor that will record your cardiac activity while you go about your normal daily life. After reviewing the results, Dr. Alonso will discuss them with you.