Rigshospitalet study suggests that sudden heart disease causes an eighth of all deaths

Researchers hopeful their conclusions will make it easier to identify those most at risk

A new study conducted by Rigshospitalet’s heart centre has closely examined the cause of 54,028 deaths that occurred in Denmark in 2010, with findings that might surprise some people.

The study reveals that every eighth death was the result of sudden cardiovascular disease, and that only half of the suddenly deceased had previously been diagnosed with heart conditions prior to their death.

Researchers have inspected death certificates, autopsy reports and national health registers in order to identify all sudden and unexpected deaths.

Hope to prevent
Researchers hope the study will generate knowledge that can help identify people with a high risk of sudden cardiovascular disease in the future.

“Our biggest challenge is that it is extremely difficult to identify people who have an increased risk of sudden cardiac death – especially the group that has not been diagnosed with heart conditions before their death,” said one of the researchers behind the study, Dr Thomas Hadberg Lynge from the heart centre at Rigshospitalet.

“The perspectives are large and hopefully it’ll be possible to develop a model that can identify persons with a high risk of sudden cardiac death. In this case, we will be able to initiate a focused prevention.”

Unknown territory
The study excels in being far more comprehensive than previous research in the area.

“Smaller studies about sudden and unexpected deaths have previously been either too small or faulty and the results have led in multiple directions,” explains the leader of the research group, Jacob Tfelt-Hansen, a heart doctor at Rigshospitalet and professor at the University of Copenhagen.

“Therefore, the real extent of this health issue has been basically unknown until now.”