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Sudden unexplained death in infants and children: the role of undiagnosed inherited cardiac conditions

Leonie C. H. Wong, Elijah R. Behr
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/europace/euu037 1706-1713 First published online: 28 February 2014


Sudden unexplained death in childhood is a traumatic event for both the immediate family and medical professionals. This is termed sudden unexplained or arrhythmic death syndrome (SUDS/SADS) for children over 1 year of age while sudden unexplained death in infancy or sudden infant death syndrome (SUDI/SIDS) refers to unexplained deaths in the first year of life. There is increasing evidence for the role of undiagnosed inherited cardiac conditions, particularly channelopathies, as the cause of these deaths. This has far-reaching implications for the family regarding the potential risk to other family members and future pregnancies, providing a challenge not only in the counselling but also in the structured assessment and management of immediate relatives. This review will discuss the cardiac risk involved in sudden unexplained deaths of infants and children, the role of molecular autopsy, family cardiological screening, current management strategies, and future directions in this area.

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome
  • Inherited cardiac conditions
  • Molecular autopsy
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