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Link discovered between common heart condition and sudden cardiac death

Health & Medical

Researchers from South Australia have confirmed a link between sudden cardiac death and mitral valve prolapse, a common heart condition.

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The research team, led by the University of Adelaide in South Australia, examined 7,600 studies to discover the correlation between the deaths and mitral valve prolapse.

The heart ailment affects around 1.2% of humans worldwide, however research found that 12% of unexplained sudden cardiac death victims had mitral valve prolapse (MVP).

According to lead researcher and Cardiologist at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders, Dr Rajiv Mahajan, MVP usually does not cause any symptoms or require medication.

“MVP is a condition in which the leaflets of the valve (mitral valve) that let blood flow from one chamber to another do not close smoothly or evenly. Instead they bulge (prolapse) upward into the left atrium of the heart,” said Dr Mahajan.

“Over the years, there have been several case studies associating mitral valve prolapse with unexplained sudden cardiac death, however the link had not been confirmed.

“Our analysis confirms the association and indicates that the incidence of sudden cardiac death in patients with mitral valve prolapse is significant.”

The study, published in Heart last week, also identified a set of features that were consistently found in cases of sudden cardiac death where MVP was present.

“Presence of scarring of the heart muscle, cases of severe bulging of both leaflets of the mitral valve, and heavy mitral valve leakage have all been reported in patients with mitral valve prolapse who have been resuscitated from cardiac arrest,” said Dr Mahajan.

“This suggests patients with these features are at high risk.”

Led by Professor Prash Sanders, Director of the Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders at the University of Adelaide, the researchers and cardiologists who conducted the study are now working to create an Australian registry for patients with mitral valve prolapse, resuscitated cardiac arrest and reported sudden cardiac death.

“With one-in-five sudden cardiac deaths occurring in people with otherwise normal hearts, this research provides insight into the need for further investigation of patients with mitral valve prolapse and high-risk conditions for serious and life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias,” said Prof Sanders.

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