Hospital Autopsy for Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death

Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 819)


In the past 20 years, cardiovascular mortality has decreased in high-income countries in response to the adoption of preventive measures to reduce the burden of coronary artery disease and heart failure. Despite these encouraging results, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for approximately 17 million deaths every year in the world, approximately 25% of which are sudden cardiac death. The risk of sudden cardiac death is higher in men than in women, and it increases with age due to the higher prevalence of coronary artery disease in older age. Accordingly, the sudden cardiac death rate is estimated to range from 1.40 per 100 000 person-years in women to 6.68 per 100 000 person-years in men. Sudden cardiac death in younger individuals has an estimated incidence of 0.46–3.7 events per 100 000 person-years, corresponding to a rough estimate of 1100–9000 deaths in Europe and 800–6200 deaths in the USA every year. Cardiac diseases associated with sudden cardiac death differ in young vs. older individuals. In the young there is a predominance of channelopathies and cardiomyopathies, myocarditis and substance abuse, while in older populations, chronic degenerative diseases predominate. In younger persons, the cause of sudden cardiac death may be elusive even after autopsy, because conditions such as inherited channelopathies or drug-induced arrhythmias that are devoid of structural abnormalities are epidemiologically relevant in this age group. Identification of the cause of an unexpected death provides the family with partial understanding and rationalization of the unexpected tragedy, which facilitates the coping process and allows an understanding of whether the risk of sudden death may extend to family members. Accordingly, author present their experience with autopsies of unexplained sudden death young victims in which a cardiac origin was suspected and the relevance of a standardized protocol for heart examination and histological sampling, as well as for toxicology and molecular investigation.


Sudden cardiac death Hospital autopsy Prevention 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Legal MedicineAzienda USL Toscana Nordovest LuccaPisaItaly

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