Sudden Cardiac Death: A Plan for the Future

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology January 27, 2014
Jeffrey Goldberger, MDOver the last several years, Northwestern Medicine’s Jeffrey Goldberger, MD, director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Research at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a professor in medicine-cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, led a series of national think tank meetings about sudden cardiac death and the ways to better treat and prevent it. Out of those meetings came the paper "Risk Stratification for Sudden Cardiac Death: A Plan for the Future," which was published today in the journal "Circulation."

Dr. Goldberger blogged for us some additional thoughts on the paper’s publication:

Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death due to heart disease, which affects over 600,000 individuals each year in the United States. While CPR and automated defibrillators can be effective treatments for cardiac arrest, survival from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is dismal.

Strategies to identify patients BEFORE they suffer a cardiac arrest and providing the appropriate preventive treatment are most promising. There are both medications and devices that have been shown to save lives by preventing sudden cardiac death.

The implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a device that can be implanted under the skin to monitor the heart rhythm and provide a life saving shock if a fatal arrhythmia develops.

Who should receive this life saving therapy? The easy answer is: individuals who are at risk for having a cardiac arrest. The hard part is identifying all the right individuals who are at risk. Currently, ICDs are indicated in individuals with advanced heart disease. However, only one third of individuals who suffer sudden cardiac death have advanced heart disease.

To have a significant impact on the large public health problem of sudden cardiac death, a concerted effort of all stakeholders – physicians, investigators, patient advocacy groups, government agencies, insurers, and industry – is needed to build upon the large database of current knowledge.

Only such an effort can build the momentum and marshal the resources needed to address this challenging problem!

My hope is that the paper published today on behalf of the national participants in the Path to Improved Risk Stratification can serve as the springboard to bring stakeholders together to address this public health issue.
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