OPINION: Management of survivors of cardiac arrest — the importance of genetic investigation

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Abstract

Management of survivors of cardiac arrest is largely based on a traditional approach. However, during the past decade, arrhythmias of genetic origin have increasingly been recognized as contributing to many more cases than previously appreciated. This realization is forcing physicians managing the survivors of cardiac arrest also to consider family members. In this Perspectives article, we examine the appropriate management approaches for survivors of cardiac arrests related to channelopathies, cardiomyopathies, or ischaemic heart disease, and for their families. Important implications for families of individuals who have experienced sudden cardiac death as part of sudden infant death syndrome or during sport activity are also discussed. Congenital long QT syndrome provides a paradigm of the logical sequence of the steps that should be performed. When a diagnosis of the cause of the cardiac arrest is certain or probable, every effort should be made to identify the genetic basis of disease, because this approach will enable the identification and early protection of similarly affected family members. Accordingly, the availability in hospitals of at least one cardiologist with cardiovascular genetics expertise would improve the management of survivors of cardiac arrest as well as of their families.

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