February 1988

Nontraumatic Prehospital Sudden Death in Young Adults

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Arch Intern Med. 1988;148(2):303-308. doi:10.1001/archinte.1988.00380020047010

• The clinical and/or autopsy records of 83 consecutive adults presenting with nontraumatic prehospital sudden death (NPSD) in a single county were reviewed. Coronary artery disease (CAD) was the primary cause of death in individuals 36 to 45 years old. Non—CAD cardiac disease was the second most common cause of NPSD in this age group. Between the ages of 18 and 35 years, non-CAD cardiac disease was the primary cause and toxic ingestions were the second most common. Patients with rhythms other than ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia, asystole, or electromechanical dissociation on presentation to the emergency room (ER) were more likely to survive. Patients with asystole in the ER were more likely to die in the ER than were patients with other rhythms. Patients with toxic ingestions tended to have a better prognosis for successful resuscitation and for ultimate survival. Age, sex, bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and time in the field were not significant prognostic variables. Patients with abdominal hemorrhage (eight of 83) as the cause of NPSD may represent a subgroup for whom a special approach is warranted. None of these patients survived. Early detection by culdocentesis or paracentesis in female patients of reproductive age and nasogastric lavage or stool occult blood testing could lead to more vigorous fluid resuscitation and early surgical intervention in abdominal hemorrhage.

(Arch Intern Med 1988;148:303-308)