Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Risk of Sudden Death
Some people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are at high risk for sudden death. It can occur at any age, but it is most shocking when it happens to young adults or athletes. While the media often highlight these tragic deaths, sudden death is rare. It occurs in about 1 out of 100 adults with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy each year.
Sudden death is often the result of ventricular tachycardia (a type of rapid heart rate) or other dangerous arrhythmias, which can be caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
To find out your risk of sudden death, your doctor will do tests and ask you about your health and family history. Your doctor might check to see if you:
- Have had cardiac arrest or ventricular tachycardia in the past.
- Had a close relative who had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and died suddenly.
- Have fainted (syncope).
- Have had low blood pressure during or after exercise.
- Have extreme left ventricle thickness (more than 30 millimeters).
If you are at high risk for sudden death, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) might be right for you. An ICD can identify life-threatening arrhythmias and successfully restore a normal heartbeat.
Because of the possible increased risk of sudden death, it may be a good idea for family members of people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
- Maron BJ, Olivotto I (2015). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1574–1588. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Gersh BJ, et al. (2011). 2011 ACCF/AHA guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 124(24): e783–e831.
- Al-Khatib SM, et al. (2017). 2017 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for management of patients with ventricular arrhythmias and the prevention of sudden cardiac death. Circulation, published online October 30, 2017. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000549. Accessed November 6, 2017.
Current as of: August 31, 2020
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