Reducing unexpected deaths

A woman with eyes downcast

Every week 12 young people die unexpectedly from a heart condition they didn’t know they had. This can be caused by a condition called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS).

How SADS happens

A picture of heart muscle cells lined up together as seen under a sophisticated microscope.The rhythm of the heartbeat is controlled by natural electrical activity in our heart cells. Disruption of this electrical current can cause a disturbance to the heartbeat that can lead to SADS.

Our groundbreaking research into SADS

Our scientists have been investigating the electrical and structural problems that lead to SADS, so that we can get better at identifying people at risk and provide treatments to prevent these tragic deaths.

Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome booklet

An inherited heart condition can affect one or several members of the same family. Sadly, some inherited heart conditions are often not diagnosed until one person dies suddenly and unexpectedly.

Download or order our Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome booklet.

Genetic clues

Thanks to your donations, we were able to support Professor Bill McKenna and his team's research at UCL which has identified genetic clues that might explain how this condition occurs.

A state of the art Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine we provided helped the team learn more about how these genes might work to control heart function.

Sudden death in young people can be caused by a faulty gene hidden in their family tree. Read our blog to find out how you've helped fund research that has led to dramatic improvements in diagnosis and treatment of these inherited heart conditions.

Predicting SADS risk

With help from our research funding, researchers at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge have developed a way to predict SADS risk by measuring electrical ‘disorganisation’ in the heart.

By identifying this type of electrical disturbance, the researchers hope to prevent SADS in people suffering from a range of different heart diseases. 

Saving lives

In the 1990s research by BHF Professor John Camm at St George's, University of London demonstrated the benefits of a device called an internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for patients at high risk of dangerous heart rhythm disturbance called ventricular fibrillation.

He pioneered the use of these devices for people at risk of SADS. Patients at high risk can be fitted with an ICD, which gives the heart a life saving kick-start when its rhythm is disrupted.

The future for SADS research

Thanks to donations from the public we fund many research projects looking at the genes and proteins that control the spread of electrical currents across the heart muscle. That research is helping us find the key to understanding heart rhythm disturbances that cause SADS.

By better understanding the conditions through research, doctors will have better ways to diagnose them before it is too late and they will also have new treatments that help minimise their impact on a person's life.

Support heart research

We need your donations to help us fund more cutting-edge research and keep making life saving breakthroughs.