BACKGROUND: Sudden unexplained death syndrome (SUDS) in young individuals often results from inherited cardiac disease. Accordingly, comprehensive examination in surviving first-degree relatives unmasks such disease in approximately 35% of the families. It is unknown whether individuals from diagnosis-negative families are at risk of developing manifest disease or cardiac events during follow-up.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to study the prognosis of first-degree relatives of young SUDS victims, in whom the initial cardiologic and genetic examination did not lead to a diagnosis.
METHODS: We retrieved vital status of surviving first-degree relatives from 83 diagnosis-negative families who presented to our cardiogenetics department between 1996 and 2009 because of SUDS in ≥1 relatives aged 1-50 years. Moreover, we contacted relatives who previously visited our center for detailed information.
RESULTS: We obtained detailed information (median follow-up 6.6 years; interquartile range 4.7-9.6 years) in 340 of 417 first-degree relatives (81.5%) from 77 of 83 families (92.8%). Vital status, available in 405 relatives (97.1%), showed that 20 relatives (4.9%) died during follow-up, including 1 natural death before the age of 50. This girl belonged to a family with multiple cases of idiopathic ventricular fibrillation and SUDS, including another successfully resuscitated sibling during follow-up. Two hundred thirty-four of 340 first-degree relatives (68.8%) underwent cardiologic examination. Of these, 76 (32.5%) were reevaluated. Inherited cardiac disease was diagnosed in 3 families (3.6%).
CONCLUSION: In first-degree relatives of young SUDS victims with no manifest abnormalities during the initial examination, the risk of developing manifest inherited cardiac disease or cardiac events during follow-up is low. This does not apply to families with obvious familial SUDS.