After road traffic accidents and suicide the largest killer of young adults in the UK is Sudden Adolescent Death Syndrome, more commonly known as SADS.
The condition, which kills around 600 in the UK every year is the subject of BBC documentary Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer which sees Patrick Mead investigate the extent of the condition which claimed his sister’s life when he was just 17 years old.
Mead is shocked to discover just how many are impacted by the condition during the documentary and talks to footballer Fabrice Muamba who collapsed during a match and subsequently survived SADS.
What is SADS?
Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, Sudden adolescent death syndrome or SADS, is when someone dies from cardiac arrest and no obvious cause can be found.
These deaths can often occur in young a health people with no underlying health conditions.
According to sads.org.uk in 1 in every 20 cases of sudden cardiac death, no definite cause of death can be found, even after the heart has been examined by an expert cardiac pathologist. In these cases the death is listed as ‘unascertainable’.
What causes SADS and what are the symptoms?
People living with a heart condition can experience arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) which may cause a cardiac arrest.
Inherited heart conditions which may cause cardiac arrest if undetected and untreated include:
- hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
- long QT syndrome (LQTS)
- Brugada syndrome
- catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT)
- progressive cardiac conduction defect (PCCD).
In many cases these conditions are inherited from a parent.
According to sads.org symptoms of the condition include
- family history of unexpected, unexplained sudden death under age 40
- fainting or seizure during exercise, excitement or startle
- consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise
What happened to Fabrice Muamba?
Muamba stunned the football world on 17 March 2012, when he suddenly collapsed and lay face down on the turf during Bolton’s FA Cup quarter-final at Tottenham.
The former England Under-21 midfielder was given 15 electric shocks on the pitch as paramedics tried to revive him and doctors later revealed the 24-year-old’s heart had stopped beating for a staggering 78 minutes.
Following the incident Muamba was diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM).
He retired from football later that year.
How to watch Sudden Death: My Sister's Silent Killer
Sudden Death: My Sister’s Silent Killer is on BBC One at 10:45pm on April 14.
You can catch up on BBC iPlayer if you miss the show.