Brugada syndrome

Physical exam 2

Brugada syndrome is a rare inherited heart rhythm disturbance that restricts the flow of sodium ions into the heart cells.

As a result, the flow of electrical impulses through the heart is disrupted, which can lead to life-threatening heart rhythms.

Brugada syndrome does not affect the structure of the heart.

Brugada syndrome more commonly affects young men of South East Asian descent. It is not a common condition in the western world, but those affected are mainly young to middle-aged men and some women.

Symptoms of Brugada syndrome

The symptoms of Brugada syndrome can include blackouts caused by a disturbance in the heart’s rhythm (ventricular arrhythmia) or palpitations. However, you may experience no symptoms at all.

If you are with someone when they collapse suddenly, it is essential to call 999 and try to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until an ambulance or medical help arrives. If you are untrained in CPR, the 999 operator will be able to talk you through the process.

How is Brugada syndrome diagnosed?

Brugada Syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. You will have to have an ECG. The differences in the ECG waveform that are characteristic of Brugada Syndrome may appear on your results continuously, intermittently, or they may not show at all.

If the differences don’t show up on your initial ECG, you may be given an injection of medicine whilst your heart rhythm is continuously monitored. The medicine aims to provoke the waveform changes that would assist in diagnosing Brugada Syndrome. These tests are not always conclusive and may need repeating.

Following a diagnosis, your GP may refer you for genetic testing to screen for any inherited gene mutations that have caused the condition. If the test shows a positive mutation, your family members will be encouraged to be tested in case they too carry the gene.

What treatment is available for Brugada syndrome?

If you have symptoms or you have already had a cardiac arrest then your risk is greater and your doctor may advise you to have an ICD fitted.

If you have an abnormal ECG but don’t have any symptoms, an electrophysiological (EP) study may help your doctor decide whether you need an ICD fitted. Research suggests that people who have a normal ECG and no symptoms are at low risk of cardiac death and may not need an ICD. It is unusual for children to be at high risk, but this will be discussed with your doctor.

Having a high temperature can sometimes make the changes in your ECG worse. If you get a temperature you should take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help lower it as long as you’re not allergic or have been told previously by your doctor not to take them.

Can I live a normal life with Brugada syndrome?

There are very few things you need to change if you have Brugada Syndrome. However, you should be aware that:

  • If you need an ICD fitted, there are standard precautions that will need to be followed.
  • You may be prescribed medicines to help prevent or reduce the occurrence of abnormal heart rhythms. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions about your medication.
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines and supplements should also first be discussed with your doctor. Some of these may induce symptoms or react with medicines you may already be taking to help reduce your risk of abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Prolonged (longer than a day) or severe episodes of vomiting or diarrhoea can affect your sodium and potassium levels. You should discuss this situation with your doctor who may prescribe oral rehydration supplements. These supplements can help to replenish sodium and potassium levels but should be used under medical supervision.
  • You should always inform medical staff that you have Brugada Syndrome when you speak to them.

Life with Brugada syndrome

Josh's story

Kevin' story

Read about Kevin Munden’s experience of being diagnosed with Brugada syndrome.

Want to find out more?

Inherited heart rhythm disturbances booklet

This booklet explains what an inherited heart rhythm disturbance means. It covers screening, testing and implications for the family and future generations.

ORDER OR DOWNLOAD

Genetic Information Service

If you have further questions about inherited heart conditions, our Genetic Information Service can help you. Call 0300 456 8383. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (charged at a rate similar to 01 or 02 calls).

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