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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.1
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.
A genetic factor appears to influence
which people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are more likely to die suddenly.
Other risk factors for sudden death include severe blockage of the left
ventricle, multiple fainting (syncope) episodes, recurring episodes of
ventricular tachycardia, and an abnormal drop in blood pressure during
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:2
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
Because of the possible increased risk of sudden death, it is a good idea for
family members of people who have hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
McKenna WJ, Elliott PM (2007). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In EJ Topol, ed., Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 3rd ed., pp. 482–501. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
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.
February 19, 2013
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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