Sudden cardiovascular death associated with sexual activity

Abstract

In recent discussions about potency-enhancing drugs such as sildenafil, health hazards associated with sexual activity have attracted increasing attention (1). In a medicolegal postmortem study performed in the Center of Legal Medicine at the University Hospital in Frank furt/Main over a 33-year period (1972–2004), about 32,000 forensic autopsies revealed 68 (0.22%) natural deaths occurring during sexual activity. Except for 5 women (7.4%; average age 39.8 years), in most cases, men were involved (92.6%; average age 59.1 years). The most frequent cause of death was myocardial infarction (n=28; 41.2%). In three cases, pericardial tamponade accompanied by myomalacia were observed. In 20 patients (29.4%), coronary artery disease (CAD) without signs of acute myocardial infarction (MI) was diagnosed. The medical history of 19 of the deceased indicated previous MI. There were seven cerebral hemorrhages (10.3%). The annual incidence of sudden cardiovascular death during sexual activity is estimated to be 1.9 per 1000 autopsies for men and 0.16 per 1000 autopsies for women (1). It is necessary to inform patients with CAD about prodromes and risk in relation to any form of physical and/or emotional stress.

This study was presented at the Sixth International Symposium in Advanced Legal Medicine (ISALM), Hamburg, Germany, September 2006.