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Brugada syndrome

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Brugada syndrome is a rare inherited heart condition that disrupts the flow of sodium or potassium ions into your heart’s cells. 

It causes disruption to the electrical impulses which keep your heart beating, and can lead to very fast, life-threatening heart rhythms.


Symptoms of Brugada syndrome

 The symptoms of Brugada syndrome are caused by abnormal heart rhythms and include:

Some symptoms are brought on by a fever, drinking lots of alcohol or dehydration. However, you may experience no symptoms at all.

Although it’s rare, some people’s first symptom is a cardiac arrest. If someone you’re with falls unconscious and stops breathing, call 999 and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until help arrives. If there’s someone nearby, ask them to get a public access defibrillator.

What causes Brugada syndrome?

Brugada syndrome is a channelopathy and is caused by problems with your cell’s proteins, called ion channels. This can interrupt your heart’s normal electrical signals.

It’s usually an inherited heart condition which means it can be passed down from your parents through your genes. 

Brugada syndrome is more common in young men with Southeast Asian heritage.

How is Brugada syndrome diagnosed?

An ECG is commonly used to test for Brugada syndrome. However, you may find that the signs don’t immediately appear because the ECG changes can come and go.

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 changes to your heart rhythm, and is often called a ‘provocation test’. This test may be carried out a few times.

After your diagnosis, you may be referred for genetic testing to screen for any faulty genes that are linked with the condition. Your immediate family members (such as parents, siblings and your children) may also be invited for assessment.

What treatment is available for Brugada syndrome?

If you have symptoms or you’ve already had a cardiac arrest then you may be at risk of having another one 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. You can also help manage your condition by that avoiding triggers, such as dehydration and drinking too much alcohol. 

Having a high temperature can also make your condition worse. If you get a temperature you should take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help lower it unless you’re allergic or have been told not to take them by your doctor.

Can I live a normal life with Brugada syndrome?

With regular check-ups, you can continue to live a normal and active life with Brugada syndrome. However, you should be aware that:

  • If you need an ICD, there may be things to plan for, such as not driving for a little while after having it fitted.
  • In some cases, medication, such as beta blockers, may help prevent or reduce the occurrence of abnormal heart rhythms.
  • You should discuss over-the-counter medicines and supplements with your doctor as some of these may cause symptoms or react with medicines you may already be taking.
  • Prolonged (longer than a day) or severe episodes of vomiting or diarrhoea can affect your sodium and potassium levels. You should discuss this 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.

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

Inherited abnormal heart rhythms booklet

This booklet explains what Brugada syndrome is. It covers screening, testing and implications for your family and future generations.


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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