Masood Akhtar, MD; Hasan Garan, MD; Michael H. Lehmann, MD; Paul J. Troup, MD
Sudden cardiac death remains a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 350 000 deaths each year, and the survival rate of victims remains low. Most survivors face a significant risk for recurrence. The typical substrate is chronic—abnormal myocardium with fibrosis (often from previous myocardial infarction) and left ventricular dysfunction. Acute triggers for sudden cardiac death are primarily electrical, ischemic, metabolic, neurohormonal, and pharmacologic. In most electrocardiographically documented cases of sudden cardiac death, the trigger-substrate interaction appears to result in ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation. After initial resuscitation, survivors need a thorough cardiovascular evaluation, including definition of coronary anatomy, left ventricular function, and wall-motion abnormalities, as well as an electrophysiologic evaluation. An attempt must be made to determine what each survivor's correctable triggers are. Management should address all reversible triggers, such as acute ischemia and electrolyte abnormalities, and should include modifying or correcting the arrhythmogenic substrate. Empiric antiarrhythmic therapy offers no advantage in such modification. Pharmacologic therapy with antiarrhythmic drugs should be guided by an objective therapeutic endpoint, which is best accomplished through the use of programmed ventricular stimulation and serial electrophysiologic studies. Other therapeutic options include surgical suppression of ventricular tachycardia and implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator.
Akhtar M, Garan H, Lehmann MH, et al. Sudden Cardiac Death: Management of High-Risk Patients. Ann Intern Med. 1991;114:499–512. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-114-6-499
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1991;114(6):499-512.
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