, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 439-451
Date: 14 Feb 2012

Noninvasive Imaging Modalities and Sudden Cardiac Arrest in the Young: Can They Help Distinguish Subjects With a Potentially Life-Threatening Abnormality From Normals?

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Abstract

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in the young is always tragic, but fortunately it is an unusual event. When it does occur, it usually happens in active individuals, often while they are participating in physical activity. Depending on the population’s characteristics, the most common causes of sudden cardiac arrest in these subjects are hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congenital coronary abnormalities, arrhythmia in the presence of a structurally normal heart (ion channelopathies or abnormal conduction pathways), aortic rupture, and arrhythmogenic right-ventricular cardiomyopathy. Two-dimensional echocardiography (2-DE) has been proposed as a screening tool that can potentially detect four of these five causes of SCA, and many groups now sponsor community-based 2-DE SCA-screening programs. “Basic” 2-DE screening may include assessment of ventricular volumes, mass, and function; left atrial size; and cardiac and thoracic vascular (including coronary) anatomy. “Advanced” echocardiographic techniques, such as tissue Doppler and strain imaging, can help in diagnosis when the history, electrocardiogram (ECG), and/or standard 2-DE screening suggest there may be an abnormality, e.g., to help differentiate those with “athlete’s heart” from hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging or cardiac computed tomography can be added to increase diagnostic sensitivity and specificity in select cases when an abnormality is suggested during SCA screening. Test availability, cost, and ethical issues related to who to screen, as well as the detection of those with potential disease but low risk, must be balanced when deciding what tests to perform to assess for increased SCA risk.