Evaluating the Family After Sudden Death in the Young

Feb 3, 2021 | Katrina Sorensen, Research Coordinator | @katrinasorensen


Each year in the United States, approximately 210,000 Americans die suddenly and unexpectedly due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS) are genetic heart conditions that can cause sudden death in young, apparently healthy, people. However, these conditions can be treated and deaths can be prevented.

SADS conditions include:

  • Brugada Syndrome
  • Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia (CPVT)
  • Long QT Syndrome (LQTS)
  • Short QT Syndrome (SQTS)
  • Timothy Syndrome
  • Wolff Parkinson White (WPW)

Check out our Diseases Overview tab for more information about these conditions.

In the following video, Mary Hardies, an RN and mother of four children, two of whom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, tells her family's long QT syndrome (LQTS) story. Then, Professor Mary N. Sheppard, Head of Cardiovascular pathology, Cardiovascular Sciences Research Centre at St. George's Medical School at the University of London, and Dr. Michael J. Ackerman, Director of Mayo Clinic's Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Program identify the pathology (causes and effects) of sudden cardiac death in the young (under 35 years old), as well as explain the importance of postmortem genetic testing and evaluation of surviving family members after a sudden cardiac death.

This video was recorded live. To join the next SADS Foundation Live event and ask your own SADS questions, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube! Live events usually occur every Friday at 1:20 PM CST, but times are subject to change.

Know the warning signs!

  • Family history of unexpected, unexplained sudden death under age 40
  • Fainting or seizure during exercise, excitement or startle
  • Consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise

Because SADS conditions are passed down from parent to child, each child of an affected parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition. It is estimated that over half of the 4,000 SADS deaths each year of children, teens, or young adults have one of the top two warning signs: 1) family history – of a SADS diagnosis or sudden unexplained death (usually undiagnosed and untreated) of a family member, or 2) fainting.

For more information, visit the SADS Foundation website.

Meet other people talking about genetic heart disorders and COVID-19 on Mayo Clinic Connect. Join the Heart Rhythm Conditions group to join the conversation, share experiences, ask questions, and discover your support network.

For up-to-date information, please follow Dr. Ackerman and the Windland Smith Rice Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic on Twitter by clicking the links below.


Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Genetic Heart Rhythm Diseases blog.

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