Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) is an inherited problem with your heart’s electrical system, which gives you an abnormal heart rhythm. Depending on the syndrome type, treatments may include medication or surgical procedures. These surgeries can greatly improve your quality of life.
Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome is a heart condition you inherit (in most cases) that affects your heart’s electrical system, giving you an abnormal heart rhythm. Without treatment, this puts you at risk for sudden death.
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One of the more common types of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, Long QT syndrome, happens in an estimated one out of 2,000 newborns. Another type, Brugada syndrome, happens in less than 1% of the population. An estimated one in 10,000 people has CPVT.
Each year, about 200,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. About 4,000 children and young adults die each year from a SADS condition.
Although symptoms vary somewhat among the different types of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, common symptoms include:
Although many people don’t have symptoms, others may experience:
There may not be any symptoms before cardiac arrest, but some people may faint during exercise.
About half of people with LQTS don’t have symptoms, but some can have:
Nearly 40% of people with this syndrome don’t have symptoms, but others with it may have:
Symptoms of Timothy syndrome include:
Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome include:
When a young person dies suddenly and their heart has a normal structure, healthcare providers may suspect the child had an undiagnosed arrhythmia. These conditions that cause arrhythmias, listed above, are usually passed down from parent to child. The chance of passing on these conditions is variable, depending on the exact gene and exact part of the heart involved.
A healthcare provider may suspect this condition in a young person who’s having symptoms and has a relative who died of unexplained, sudden death before age 40. Diagnostic methods vary by the type of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.
Diagnostic tools may include:
Treatments vary depending on the type of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.
Treatment for Brugada syndrome includes:
Treatments for Long QT syndrome may include medicines or procedures, including:
Short QT syndrome treatments include medication and a procedure:
Treatments include medication and a device:
Medication may prevent WPW symptoms. Your healthcare provider can treat — and possibly cure — WPW with ablation therapy that gets rid of the extra conduction pathway. They can also prescribe medications called antiarrhythmics to reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm.
Some people can’t tolerate beta blockers their healthcare provider prescribed.
Left cardiac sympathetic denervation may cause:
However, this procedure can improve your quality of life.
ICDs deliver an electrical shock to get your heart back to a normal rhythm, but they can cause:
Having family members who know how to do CPR and have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) at home can give your loved one with SADS peace of mind. Being prepared can allow you to respond if they need help.
If someone in your family has sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, check with your healthcare provider about having others in your family tested for the genetic mutation. They can help you figure out who should get tested. Once a loved one has a diagnosis, they can take preventive steps to protect themselves with medicine or a procedure.
The outlook for sudden arrhythmic death syndrome depends on the type you have and whether you get an early diagnosis and prompt treatment. This is a lifelong condition that can be fatal.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW) treatments offer the most hope, as an ablation can fix the problem.
People who are getting treatment for Long QT syndrome rarely die suddenly. However, many people who could do well with a treatment called left cardiac sympathetic denervation don’t have that option available to them. With conditions like Short QT syndrome, research is scarce because there are so few cases (about 200).
More research is needed to find the best treatments for everyone with sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.
Placement of an ICD can prevent sudden cardiac death by treating abnormal heart rhythms. While this does not make the condition go away, this is an effective way to reduce the chance of death from these conditions.
If your healthcare provider prescribed medicine for you, be sure to take it without missing doses. The same is true for a child that has SADS. They need their medicine at certain times and shouldn’t miss a dose.
Always check with a health care provider or pharmacist before starting a new medication. Many medications, including common antibiotics and anti-nausea medications, can interact with cardiac medications your provider prescribes and can impact the QT segment, which impacts the chance of sudden death in long QT syndrome.
You’ll also want to understand how your (or your child’s) implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) works and have your provider check it regularly. Some medical procedures and everyday electronics can interfere with how well ICDs work, so make sure you know what to avoid.
If your child has SADS, check with your provider to see if it’s ok for them to play sports with their condition.
If you have SADS, regular checkups are important to make sure you’re taking the right amount of medicine. If your child has SADS, they’ll need to take larger doses of medicine as they grow and gain weight. This is why frequent checkups are especially important for children. See your provider twice a year if you have an ICD.
Call 911 and do CPR if someone is in cardiac arrest.
Go to the ER or call 911 if you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
With sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, being informed about your diagnosis helps you to understand your options. Work with your healthcare provider to decide which treatment is best for you or your loved one. Regular follow-ups are important, especially if you have an ICD. You can empower yourself and your family by having an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and making sure everyone knows how to use it and do CPR.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/06/2022.
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