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Sudden cardiac death in a young patient is a catastrophic occurrence. Anomalous coronary origin (ACO) is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death among individuals under the age of 35 years. We sought to define the premortem clinical and postmortem histopathologic findings in victims of sudden cardiac death resulting from either ACO or obstructive atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD) among U.S. military recruits (ages 17–35 years). The autopsy records of all sudden cardiac deaths occurring among recruits during their basic military training period from 1977 through 2001 were reviewed. Twenty-one deaths were associated with ACO and 10 with CAD. Recruits with ACO were more likely to have prodromal symptoms of exertional syncope and/or chest pain (48% vs. 0%, P = 0.011). All sudden cardiac deaths resulting from ACO involved a left main coronary artery takeoff from the right coronary sinus with a course between the aorta and the right ventricular outflow tract and an otherwise normal distribution of the major epicardial coronary arteries. Myocardial fibrosis was seen equally in those with both CAD and ACO (30% vs. 20%, P = 0.66), but the finding of necrosis tended to be more common among recruits with CAD (50% vs. 15%, P = 0.08). In conclusion, review of autopsy data of sudden cardiac deaths among U.S. military recruits reveals myocardial fibrosis or necrosis occurred in 70% of cases with CAD and 35% of cases with ACO. Sudden cardiac deaths resulting from ACO were more likely to be associated with premortem exertional chest discomfort and/or syncope compared with deaths resulting from CAD.