Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Sudden adult death syndrome and other non-ischaemic causes of sudden cardiac death
  1. A Fabre,
  2. M N Sheppard
  1. Pathology Department, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Mary N Sheppard
    Department of Pathology, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK; m.sheppard{at}


Objective: To evaluate non-atherosclerotic cardiac deaths in the UK population aged over 15 years including elderly patients and to highlight the concept of the structurally normal heart in sudden death.

Methods: Pathological data were collected prospectively for sudden adult deaths referred by UK coroners.

Results: 453 cases of sudden death from 1994 to 2003 (278 men (61.4%) and 175 women (38.6%), age range 15–81 years) were reviewed. Males predominated in both age groups (⩽ 35 years, > 35 years). More than half of the hearts (n  =  269, 59.3%) were structurally normal. In the other 40.7%, cardiac abnormalities were noted, which included: (1) cardiomyopathies (23%) such as idiopathic fibrosis, left ventricular hypertrophy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia; (2) inflammatory disorders (8.6%) including lymphocytic myocarditis and cardiac sarcoidosis; (3) non-atheromatous abnormalities of coronary arteries (4.6%); (4) valve diseases; and (5) miscellaneous and rare causes.

Conclusion: The concept of the structurally normal heart in sudden death and the need for histological examination to detect underlying disease is highlighted. Relatives need to be referred for cardiological and genetic screening in cases of normal hearts found at necropsy.

  • ARVD, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia
  • HCM, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • LVH, left ventricular hypertrophy
  • SADS, sudden adult death syndrome
  • necropsy
  • sudden death
  • coroner
  • cardiomyopathy
  • normal heart

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.