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Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Military Recruits: Guarding the Heart of a Soldier

Gary J. Balady, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118.


Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Requests for Single Reprints: Gary J. Balady, MD, Section of Cardiology, Boston Medical Center, 88 East Newton Street, Boston, MA 02118; e-mail, gary.balady@bmc.org.


Ann Intern Med. 2004;141(11):882-884. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-141-11-200412070-00013
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Sudden unexpected death is always tragic, but especially so when it occurs in soldiers. Death in combat is devastating, but it is an inherent risk of an occupation that calls for individuals to put their life at risk for others. Sudden cardiac death during basic military training should raise concern because it implies failures at many levels: a potentially fatal cardiovascular abnormality that fails to generate symptoms or signs of the underlying disorder; the patient's failure to recognize and report unusual symptoms; the physician's failure to recognize nonspecific symptoms that may represent a serious underlying cardiovascular condition; routine screening methods that fail to detect obscure cardiovascular abnormalities; and, finally, resuscitation efforts that fail to restore spontaneous circulation. However, most of these “failures” do not invoke blame; rather, they present a challenge to the medical and scientific community to prolong life by reducing the occurrence of sudden unexpected death.

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