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Ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in adults with congenital heart disease
  1. Paul Khairy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Paul Khairy, Montreal Heart Institute Adult Congenital Center, Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Belanger St. E., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H1T 1C8; paul.khairy{at}


Remarkable gains in survival have led to an unprecedented number of adults with congenital heart disease. Arrhythmias collectively comprise the most common complication encountered. Recognising the unique issues and challenges involved in managing arrhythmias in adults with congenital heart disease and the consequential decisions surrounding sudden death prevention, expert societies have proposed evidence-based recommendations. On the whole, acute ventricular arrhythmias are managed according to general cardiology guidelines, while taking into consideration congenital heart disease-specific issues, such as positioning of patches or paddles according to location of the heart. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are indicated for secondary prevention in patients with sustained ventricular tachycardia or resuscitated cardiac arrest in the absence of a reversible cause. Pharmacological therapy and catheter ablation can be effective in reducing recurrent ICD shocks. Risk–benefit assessment for primary prevention ICDs is a major challenge. Although a clearer picture has emerged of the high-risk patient with tetralogy of Fallot, ICD indications for those with systemic right ventricles or univentricular hearts remain contentious. Challenges to ICD implantation include obstructed veins, conduits and baffles, atrioventricular valve disease and intracardiac shunts. In selected patients, customised systems with epicardial and/or subcutaneous coils may represent a viable solution. Alternatively, the subcutaneous ICD is an attractive option for patients in whom transvenous access is not feasible or desirable and in whom bradycardia and antitachycardia pacing features are not essential. Continued advances in risk stratification and device technologies carry the potential to further improve efficacy and safety outcomes in this growing population of patients.

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  • Competing interests PK has received research grants from Medtronic and St. Jude Medical.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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