Sudden cardiac death in the young: a clinical genetic approach
The sudden death of a young person is a devastating event for both the family and community. Over the last decade, significant advances have been made in understanding both the clinical and genetic basis of sudden cardiac death in the young. Many of the causes of sudden death in the young are due to genetic heart disorders, which can lead to both structural (e.g. hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and arrhythmogenic (e.g. familial long QT syndrome) abnormalities. Most commonly, sudden cardiac death in the young can be the first presentation of an underlying heart problem, leaving the family at a loss as to why an otherwise healthy young person has died. Not only is this a tragic event for those involved, but it also presents a medical challenge to the clinician involved in the management of the surviving family members. Evaluation of families requires a multidisciplinary approach, which should include cardiologists, a clinical geneticist, a genetic counsellor and the forensic pathologist directly involved in the sudden death case. This multifaceted cardiac genetic service is crucial in the evaluation and management of the clinical, genetic, psychological and social complexities observed in families in which there has been a young sudden cardiac death.
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