Risk of sudden versus nonsudden cardiac death in patients with coronary artery disease

Nathan Every, Alfred Hallstrom, Kathryn M. McDonald, Lori Parsons, David Thom, Douglas Weaver, Mark A. Hlatky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death, yet at low risk of nonsudden death, might be ideal candidates for antiarrhythmic drugs or devices. Most previous studies of prognostic markers for sudden cardiac death have ignored the competitive risk of nonsudden cardiac death. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the ability of clinical factors to distinguish the risks of sudden and nonsudden cardiac death. Methods: We identified all deaths during a 3.3-year follow-up of 30,680 patients discharged alive after admission to the cardiac care unit of a Seattle hospital. Detailed chart reviews were conducted on 1093 subsequent out-of-hospital sudden deaths, 973 nonsudden cardiac deaths, and 442 randomly selected control patients. Results: Patients who died in follow-up (suddenly or nonsuddenly) were significantly different for many clinical factors from control patients. In contrast, patients with sudden cardiac death were insignificantly different for most clinical characteristics from patients with nonsudden cardiac death. The mode of death was 20% to 30% less likely to be sudden in women, patients who had angioplasty or bypass surgery, and patients prescribed β-blockers. The mode of death was 20% to 30% more likely to be sudden in patients with heart failure, frequent ventricular ectopy, or a discharge diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction. A multivariable model had only modest predictive capacity for mode of death (c-index of 0.62). Conclusion: Standard clinical evaluation is much better at predicting overall risk of death than at predicting the mode of death as sudden or nonsudden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-396
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican heart journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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