According to Amy Hart, San Francisco's chief medical examiner, "There are really no guidelines for medical examiners and coroners in the investigation of sudden cardiac deaths. This research will inform not only a large public health problem but could also advise future policy for all medical examiners."
Ellen Moffatt, MD, assistant Medical Examiner and a collaborator on the study added, "We are excited to partner with Dr. Tseng on this important project. Sudden cardiac deaths make up a large burden of overall mortality but have been inconsistently investigated."
Sudden cardiac death affects an estimated 295,000 people per year and impacts ethnic populations with varying degrees of incidence; African Americans, for example, suffer a rate nearly three times higher than Caucasians. SCD is defined by the American Heart Association as death resulting from an abrupt loss of heart function, or cardiac arrest, in which the victim may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected and occur within minutes after symptoms appear.
There are many reasons for the study, according to Tseng. Little is actually known about the underlying causes of sudden death or what accounts for the observed racial disparity. The disease has not been widely researched; what knowledge does exist is nearly 30 years old and has been derived mostly from homogeneous Caucasian populations, and likely included subjects who died of reasons other than SCD.
"To complicate the situation further," Tseng said, "when autopsies are performed on only 10 percent to 15 percent of cases, it makes for a lot of assumptions."
During the second phase of the study, the team will build a database of the cases, including information about heart tissue and clinical data from the deceased subjects' past medical records.
Tseng has designed a systematic way of looking at the heart that analyzes factors such as scarring, weigh
|Contact: Jeffrey Norris|
University of California - San Francisco