Tests can give families of SADS victims a life saving diagnosis

14 March 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

Extensive tests could give the families of those lost to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) a life saving diagnosis, according to research funded by Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and the British Heart Foundation.

A hospital ECG print out

A study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology suggests a series of investigative tests should be carried out on the loved ones of SADS victims, to try and diagnose an underlying hidden heart condition and protect them from another tragedy.

The series of tests include an ECG, echocardiogram, exercise test and the ajmaline provocation test – a procedure used to reveal abnormal electrical activity in the heart.

The researchers funded by CRY and the BHF, based at St George’s University of London, evaluated over 300 families who had lost a relative to SADS over a 10-year period. The team looked at 911 relatives in total and 22% of them were diagnosed with an inherited cardiac condition. The most common condition found in families was Brugada syndrome, affecting 16% of all relatives. 

Brugada syndrome is a rare inherited heart rhythm disturbance that restricts the flow of sodium ions into the heart cells. If diagnosed, people with Brugada syndrome can be treated with medications or fitted with an ICD, to shock the heart back into rhythm if it stops.

Read our blog about Brugada research.

A postcode lottery

Not every family member who loses a relative to SADS will undergo extensive investigative tests. It’s important for families to get an explanation, not only to help them come to terms with their loss but also to protect their futures if they have a treatable disease. 

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, our Medical Director, said:

“Cardiac screening the loved ones of SADS victims is a postcode lottery. Not every family will undergo the tests needed to find a hidden heart condition and ultimately this could mean the difference between life or death.

“Research like this shows how important it is to investigate an unexpected death. Knowledge is power – if family members are given a diagnosis, we can treat and protect them from another tragedy.”

We’re raising awareness of inherited heart conditions and the importance of continued research.

Find out more about our In Your Genes campaign