Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Risk of Sudden Death - Topic Overview
Some people who have
hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are at high risk for
sudden death. It can occur at any age, but it is
most shocking when it happens to young adults or athletes. While the media often highlight these tragic
deaths, sudden death is rare. It occurs in about 1 out of 100 adults with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy each year.1
Sudden death is often the result of ventricular
tachycardia (a type of rapid heart rate) or other dangerous
arrhythmias, which can be caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
A genetic factor appears to influence
which people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are more likely to die suddenly.
Other risk factors for sudden death include severe blockage of the left
ventricle , multiple fainting (syncope) episodes, recurring episodes of
ventricular tachycardia, and an abnormal drop in blood pressure during
To find out your risk of sudden death, your doctor will do tests and ask you about your health and family history. Your doctor might check to see if you:2
- Have had cardiac arrest or
ventricular tachycardia in the past.
- Had a close relative who had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and died suddenly.
- Have fainted (syncope).
- Have had low blood pressure
during or after exercise.
- Have extreme left ventricle thickness
(more than 30 millimeters).
If you are at high risk for sudden death, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) might be right for you. An ICD
can identify life-threatening
arrhythmias and successfully restore a normal
Because of the possible increased risk of sudden death, it is a good idea for
family members of people who have hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).