International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 121, Issue 4, pp 245–257 | Cite as

Cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death in infancy: implication for the medicolegal investigation

  • Horst Wedekind
  • Eric Schulze-Bahr
  • Volker Debus
  • Günter Breithardt
  • Bernd Brinkmann
  • Thomas Bajanowski
Review Article


Genetically transmitted diseases are an important cause of juvenile sudden cardiac death (SCD). In a considerable proportion of individuals in which a medicolegal investigation is performed, structural heart disease is absent, and the medical examiner fails to discover an adequate cause of death. In such cases, an inherited arrhythmogenic disease should be considered, which manifests with life-threatening ventricular tachycardia or SCD. Molecular diagnosis is progressively becoming an important tool for these questions. Therefore, postmortem genetic testing (“molecular autopsy”) should be considered as a part of the comprehensive medicolegal investigation in SCD cases without apparent structural heart disease. It will have implications not only for the deceased individual but also for living family members in preventing (further) cardiac events by expert counseling, appropriate lifestyle adjustment, and adequate treatment, if available.


Sudden death Infants Arrhythmias Genetics Heart disease 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Horst Wedekind
    • 1
  • Eric Schulze-Bahr
    • 1
  • Volker Debus
    • 2
  • Günter Breithardt
    • 1
  • Bernd Brinkmann
    • 3
  • Thomas Bajanowski
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Cardiology and AngiologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  2. 2.Department of Pediatric CardiologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Legal MedicineUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Legal MedicineUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany

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