ACPSEM conference: How can sudden cardiac death be prevented?

Despite the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), exercise is good for us, cardiology specialist registrar Andrew D’Silva told the conference.

And exercise is something that the majority of the UK population should be doing more of, particularly from a cardiology point of view, he said.

But the risk of death among young people (aged under 35) of SCD is twice as high among athletes compared to rest of the population.

Of the young people who suffer SCD, 90 per cent are male, 90 per cent die during or straight after exercise, and from 75 to 80 per cent experience no symptoms before the event.

Screening is the most useful tool in tackling SCD, with a personal and family medical history, a physical examination, and an electrocardiogram the first steps. Patients considered to be at risk could be given an exercise test and a cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan to better establish the condition of their heart. Some young people can have their condition managed, but many problems have a genetic cause and exercise must be ruled out.

But screening can also throw up false positives and negatives, and some cases of SCD can be acquired, such as heatstroke or a virus, Dr D’Silva warned.

All physios working with athletes or sports clubs should be aware of the possibility of SCD, and know what first steps to take, Dr D’Silva said.

‘Know that the club has a defibrillator and know how to use it; know how to check for a pulse and feel for it straight away; and call for help immediately. Time is everything,’ he said.

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