Psychotropic medications and the risk of sudden cardiac death during an acute coronary event

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Psychotropic medication increases cardiac mortality, but the reasons for this association are not clear. We studied the role of psychotropic drugs as a triggering factor of sudden cardiac death (SCD) during an acute coronary event.

Methods and results

The use of medication was compared between victims of SCD and survivors of an acute coronary event in a case–control study including a consecutive series of victims of SCD (n= 1814, mean age 65 ± 11 years) verified to be due to an acute coronary event at medico-legal autopsy and consecutive series of patients surviving an acute myocardial infarction (AMI; n= 1171, mean age 66 ± 12 years). The medication history was obtained from autopsy/hospital records and interviews with relatives of SCD victims and AMI patients. The use of antipsychotics [9.7 vs. 2.4%, odds ratio (OR) 4.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.9–6.6; P< 0.001] and antidepressants (8.6 vs. 5.5%, OR: 1.6, 95% CI: 1.2–2.2; P= 0.003) was more common in the SCD than AMI group, but the use of benzodiazepines did not differ between the groups (11.7 vs. 13.2%; P= 0.270). The use of antipsychotics remained as a significant risk factor for SCD after adjustment for confounding variables (OR: 3.4, 95% CI: 1.8–6.5; P< 0.001). Combined use of phenothiazines and any antidepressant was associated with a very high risk of SCD (OR: 18.3, 95% CI: 2.5–135.3; P< 0.001).


The use of psychotropic drugs, especially combined use of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, is strongly associated with an increased risk of SCD at the time of an acute coronary event.

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