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Risk of cardiovascular disease in family members of young sudden cardiac death victims

Mattis Flyvholm Ranthe, Bo Gregers Winkel, Elisabeth Wreford Andersen, Bjarke Risgaard, Jan Wohlfahrt, Henning Bundgaard, Stig Haunsø, Mads Melbye, Jacob Tfelt-Hansen, Heather A. Boyd
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehs350 ehs350 First published online: 14 November 2012


Aims Descriptive and genetic studies suggest that relatives of sudden cardiac death (SCD) victims have an increased risk of several cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Given the severe consequences of undiagnosed CVD and the availability of effective treatment, the potential for prevention in this group is enormous if they do have an increased CVD risk. This nationwide prospective population-based cohort study described the risk of CVDs in relatives of young SCD victims, compared with the general population.

Methods and Results All SCD victims aged 1–35 years in Denmark, 2000–2006, were identified (n = 470), along with their first- and second-degree relatives (n = 3073). We compared the incidence of CVD in those relatives with that in the background population using standardized incidence ratios (SIRs). The observed number of CVDs over 11 years of follow-up was 292, compared with 219 expected based on national rates [SIR 1.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19–1.50]. Risks varied significantly with age; the SIR for those <35 years was 3.53 (95% CI 2.65–4.69), compared with SIRs of 1.59 (95% CI 1.35–1.89) and 0.91 (95% CI 0.75–1.10) for those aged 35–60 years or >60 years, respectively (Phomogeneity < 0.0001). For first-degree relatives <35 years, SIRs for ischaemic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and ventricular arrhythmia were 5.99 (95% CI 1.95–0.13.98), 17.91 (95% CI 4.88–45.87), and 19.15 (95% CI 7.70–39.45), respectively.

Conclusion CVDs co-aggregated significantly with SCD in families, with young first-degree relatives at greatest risk. Results clearly indicate that family members of young SCD victims should be offered comprehensive and systematic screening, with focus on the youngest relatives.

  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Cascade screening
  • Epidemiology
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Ventricular arrhythmia
  • Ischaemic heart disease
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