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August 7, 1981

Ventricular arrhythmias may not be primary cause of sudden death

JAMA. 1981;246(6):581-589. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320060003001

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At a recent conference sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, physicians and scientists from several disciplines explored the topic of sudden coronary death, discussing its epidemiology, pathogenesis, and prevention. The purpose of the conference was not to present conclusions but "to start to define sudden death and identify predictors of it," according to co-chairman Edward M. Dwyer, Jr, MD, of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

Approximately 400,000 persons die suddenly of heart disease in the United States each year. Furthermore, it is estimated that about 50% die within one hour of symptom onset and that half of those over age 50 years never even reach the hospital.

The concept of "sudden" cardiac death as a special category of death from heart disease arose largely in the early 1960s, recalled John Kastor, MD, director of the division of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania