Nearly 20% of people with sudden, unexplained cardiac death carry rare genetic variants, study finds

Among 413 people who died of sudden unexplained heart failure, nearly 1 in 5 carried rare genetic variants that likely raised their risk of sudden cardiac death, according to research findings published June 2 in JAMA Cardiology.

To conduct the study, researchers from Baltimore-based University of Maryland School of Medicine conducted genetic sequencing on 413 patients who died of sudden unexplained heart failure. Patients were 41 years old on average, 63 percent were men and 50 percent were Black. 

Results showed 18 percent of the patients had genes associated with arrhythmia or heart failure conditions that were previously undetected, pointing to the potential value of genetic screening in cardiology. 

"Genetic screening isn't routinely used in cardiology, and far too many patients still die suddenly from a heart condition without having any previously established risk factors," said Aloke Finn, MD, study author and clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland's medical school. 

"What we found opens the door and asks some important questions," Dr. Finn said. "Should we be doing routine genetic screening in those who have a family history of unexplained sudden cardiac death?" 

To view the full study, click here

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