Medical Information

Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome (SCD) and Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) affects the young, fit and apparently health. In particular young athletes or those involved in sporting activities are most at risk. But it can affect all young people in the under 35 age group.

SCD and SADS cover a range of genetic cardiac conditions that cause sudden death in young people. These deaths relate to young people that suddenly drop dead in the school yard, on the sporting fields or in their homes or beds.

SCD - these conditions are structural problems of the heart and are therefore able to be detected at autopsy. They are - Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy.

SADS – Electrical Heart Conditions or ion channelopathies which include – Long QT and Brugada Syndromes, amongst others. These abnormalities are at the cellular level and cannot be seen at post mortem.

For one third of young people who die suddenly, no cause of death is established. In the absence of injuries or other causal factors, death is determined as "unascertained". 50% of these for whom no cause of death is established, are generally the people who have the heart condition at a molecular level which cannot be seen at autopsy.

SCD and SADS occurs in people under 35 years of age group and most at risk are from the onset of puberty to the early 20s. They die suddenly because symptoms are vague, they function at a high physical level or signs and symptoms are absent altogether. These young ones do not die from heart disease caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, high cholesterol ect. Overseas research indicates the average age of death from SCD is 17 years. Young athletes are 3 times as likely to die suddenly from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy as a non-athletes with the same condition.

These deaths are preventable via a cohesive, preventative risk control strategy involving awareness and cost effective screening programs in particular 12- lead ECGs medical history and physical examination. Abnormal findings may then lead to further comprehensive testing such as Echocardiograms and referral to Cardiologists. Such an initiative in Australia is absent at the current time. See Screening section for more details.

10 to 12 young people are dying from these conditions every week in Australia, that’s over 500 a year! These statistics are similar to the number of young people that are killed in motor vehicle accidents (drivers and passengers) in Australia and all workplace fatalities in Australia and New Zealand combined. These figures are conservative as they do not account for young people who may be undertaking activities such as driving a car, swimming, riding a bike ect as the cause of death is usually attributed to the injuries sustained during the incident. The figures of over 500 a year are virtually on par with UK Statistics. Considering the vast difference between the populations Australia is well behind in protecting our young people.

For more comprehensive information go to CRY Medical Information

American Parent Heart Watch - General Information

Parent Heart Watch - National voice in America