The annual incidence of sudden cardiac death (SCD) is estimated at 1 per 1,000 for adults over the age of 35 years, and 1 per 100,000 for adolescents and young adults. Although the overall incidence of unexpected SCD among previously healthy persons is small, the emotional impact of these events is devastating. The 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) has been used as a risk assessment tool from healthy occupational applicants and athletes to patients with cardiovascular disorders. The ECG is also routinely recorded in the majority of patients hospitalized for non-cardiovascular causes. Thus, it is a widely used tool intended for identification of unsuspected heart disease generally, as well as for diagnosing specific disorders predisposing to fatal arrhythmias in subjects who have not experienced such events but who are at increased risk. Recognition of specific ECG features is of importance for prevention of SCD in asymptomatic persons. The purpose of this review is to catalog the disorders associated with SCD that may be reflected in 12-lead ECGs seen in office or hospital practices and to discuss their prevalence and the magnitude of risks. The focus is on ECG findings suggesting increased SCD risk among the asymptomatic subjects without previously diagnosed cardiac disease.
- Sudden cardiac death
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