Undiagnosed Heart Disease Leading to Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood: A Retrospective Study
Objectives: Heart disease accounts for a significant proportion of sudden unexpected deaths among children. We describe here demographic features, pathological conditions, and the frequency of premonitory symptoms in a retrospective series of cases of sudden unexpected cardiac death (SUCD) attributable to undiagnosed structural heart disease.
Methods: A chart review of autopsies involving children 0 to 17 years of age that were performed at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) between 1984 and 2003 was conducted. Cases of sudden unexpected death within 24 hours after clinical presentation with previously undetected fatal heart disease were included. Cases with multiple or thoracic trauma and chronic or multisystem disease were excluded.
Results: During the 20-year study period, 4926 autopsies were performed. A total of 103 cases (2.1%), involving 51 male patients and 52 female patients 1 day to 15 years of age (mean: 2.9 ± 4.2 years), were diagnosed as having SUCD. The most common diagnoses were myocarditis (n = 37 [35.9%]), hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) (n = 19 [18.4%]), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) (n = 16 [16.5%]), coronary artery anomalies (n = 6 [5.8%]), and aortic stenosis (n = 5 [4.9%]). There was a significant difference in the mean age of presentation between leading causes of SUCD (6.5 days for HLHS, 1.7 years for DCM, and 5.4 years for myocarditis; P < .0001). Of 103 cases, 27 (26.2%) had premonitory symptoms documented.
Conclusion: SUCD accounted for 2.1% of all autopsies, and HLHS, DCM, and myocarditis were the 3 most common diagnoses, which presented at increasing ages.
- sudden cardiac death
- congenital heart disease
- hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Accepted May 24, 2011.
- Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics