Background - Sudden unexpected death frequently occurs in chronic heart failure. The importance of acute coronary events in triggering sudden death (SD) is unclear. Methods and Results - We evaluated at autopsy the prevalence of acute coronary findings (coronary thrombus, ruptured plaque, or myocardial infarction [MI]) and their relation to SD. Autopsy results in 171 patients in the randomized ATLAS trial were reviewed. The prevalence of acute coronary findings was 33%: in 54% of patients with significant coronary artery disease (CAD) who died suddenly, 32% who died of myocardial failure, but in non-CAD patients, they were present in only 5% and 10% respectively. The percentage of patients classified as dying of MI was 28% in the autopsy group versus 4% in the nonautopsied group (P<0.0001). Of the autopsied group with acute MI, 97% (31 of 32 patients) with SD and 40% (6 of 15 patients) with myocardial failure did not have the MI diagnosed during life. When undiagnosed MI was classified as 'sudden unexpected' or 'myocardial failure' from clinical information only, the distribution of death causes was similar in the autopsy and nonautopsied groups. Conclusions - Acute coronary findings are frequent and usually not clinically diagnosed in heart failure patients with CAD, particularly in those dying suddenly, suggesting the importance of acute coronary events as a trigger for SD in this setting.
- Death, sudden
- Heart failure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)