Blood alcohol in victims of sudden cardiac death in northern Finland

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Momentary intake of large quantity of alcohol provokes ventricular ectopic activity increasing electrical instability. The present study was aimed to assess the prevalence of alcohol intake prior to a sudden cardiac death (SCD) event.

Methods and results

Victims of unexpected SCD [n = 2363, age 61 ± 12 years, males 1940 (82%)] included in the Finnish study of genotype and phenotype profiles of SCD (FINGESTURE) had a thorough interview of family members, medico-legal autopsy, and determination of blood alcohol concentration. Because of the Finnish law, all unexpected deaths undergo medico-legal autopsy. Patients who were admitted to a hospital due to an acute myocardial infarction [n = 128, age 63 ± 10 years, males 100 (78%)] served as controls. Based on autopsy findings, 1691 of these victims had ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and were included in the present analysis. A total of 646 (38%) SCD victims with IHD had a blood ethanol concentration above 0‰. Of these victims with blood alcohol test positive, 41% (n = 264) had blood ethanol concentration ≥1.5‰ and 56% (n = 362) ≥1‰. Male SCD victims had more frequently alcohol in blood than the females (40 vs. 27%, P < 0.001, respectively). None of the controls, who gave a consent for the blood ethanol concentration determination (n = 88), had alcohol in blood. Of the controls, 40 (31%) declined to participate in the study and give the consent for blood alcohol testing.


Almost 4 of 10 of the victims of unexpected SCD have evidence of alcohol intake before the fatal event in the northern Finland autopsy population.

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