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Nationwide burden of sudden cardiac death: A study of 54,028 deaths in Denmark

      Background

      A large proportion of all deaths are sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs). Reliable estimates of nationwide incidence of SCD, however, are missing.

      Objectives

      The goals of this study were to estimate SCD burden across all age groups in Denmark and to compare it with the estimates of other common causes of death.

      Methods

      All deaths in Denmark (population of 5.5 million) in 2010 were manually reviewed case by case. Autopsy reports, death certificates, and information from nationwide health registries were systematically examined to identify all SCD cases in 2010. According to the level of detail of the available information, all deaths were categorized as either non-SCD, definite SCD, probable SCD, or possible SCD.

      Results

      There were 54,028 deaths in Denmark in 2010, of which 6867 (13%) were categorized as SCD (591 (9%) definite SCD, 1568 (23%) probable SCD, and 4708 (68%) possible SCD). The incidence rate of definite SCD was 11 (95% confidence interval 10–12) per 100,000 person-years. Including definite, probable, and possible SCD cases, the highest possible overall SCD incidence rate was 124 (95% confidence interval 121–127) per 100,000 person-years. Estimated SCD burden was similar to or greater than the estimates of all other common causes of death. Of all SCD cases, 49% were not diagnosed with cardiovascular disease before death.

      Conclusion

      SCD accounted for up to 13% of all deaths. Almost half of all SCD cases occurred in persons without a history of cardiovascular disease. Consequently, the optimization of risk stratification and prevention of SCD in the general population should be given high priority.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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