Sudden cardiac death: Epidemiologic and financial worldwide perspective

Timothy W. Smith, Michael E. Cain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The term sudden cardiac death (SCD) implies the sudden and unexpected loss of an active, productive member of the community. SCD is typically attributed to lethal ventricular arrhythmias; however, these arrhythmias are impossible to diagnose after the fact. Epidemiologic analyses, therefore, rely on inference of the cause of death. Estimates of the incidence of are SCD variable but it may be as high as 1 per 1,000 per year. The cost of SCD to society is incalculable. Current strategies for preventing SCD rely on risk assessment for cardiology patients and implantation of defibrillators (ICD) in high risk patients. Unfortunately, the absolute number of SCDs that occur in the general (relatively low-risk) population is large compared to the number of SCDs in the high risk population. Therefore, prevention of SCD in high risk populations is unlikely to prevent the majority of SCDs. Cost-effectiveness of ICD implantation for prevention of SCD has been studied; ICDs appear to meet U.S. and European criteria for cost-effectiveness if their benefit extends to at least 7-8 years. However, therapies considered cost-effective may nonetheless be too costly for most worldwide societies. Currently, investigators are focusing on refining risk stratification, partly in hopes of identifying patients for whom ICD implantation will not be useful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-203
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Arrhythmia
  • ICD
  • Sudden cardiac death


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