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Decline in sports-related sudden cardiac death linked with rise in bystander resuscitation

Cardiac Arrest
Physical Inactivity and Exercise

Paris, France – 2 Sept 2019: Fewer sports-related sudden cardiac arrest victims die nowadays, a trend linked with increased bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), reports a study presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology. (1) The late breaking study also found that the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest during sports has not changed over the last decade.

Sudden cardiac arrest is lethal within minutes if left untreated and rapid initiation of CPR improves survival. Pre-participation screening of athletes aims to identify those at high risk and potentially exclude them from sports, with the ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest. In most cases, decisions on who to screen are made by international sporting bodies rather than national healthcare systems. (2)

“In our study, bystander CPR was associated with a nearly eight times greater likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest victims surviving to hospital discharge,” said principal investigator Professor Xavier Jouven of the Paris-Sudden Death Expertise Centre. “Failure to reduce the incidence of sports-related sudden cardiac arrest is disappointing and questions the efficacy of screening programmes.”

Prof Jouven said: “This study was done to assess trends in incidence and survival of sports-related sudden cardiac arrest. We initially expected both a decrease in incidence due to screening programmes and an increase in survival due to CPR.”

The analysis was conducted using two prospective registries carried out by the Paris-Sudden Death Expertise Centre. All sudden cardiac arrests occurring during or immediately after competitive and amateur sports in Paris and the surrounding suburbs were recorded in 2005 to 2010 and 2011 to 2016.

There were 158 sports-related sudden cardiac arrests in 2005 to 2010, and 162 in 2011 to 2016. Incidence remained stable across the two periods, at around 6.9 cases per million inhabitants of Paris and the surrounding suburbs per year. There were no significant differences between time periods in average age (49 to 52 years), proportion of men (94% to 96%), and prevalence of previously known heart disease (14% to 17%).

Bystander CPR was significantly more common in 2011 to 2016 (81%) compared to 2005 to 2010 (46%). Automated external defibrillator (AED) use was significantly more frequent in the later period (11.9%) compared to the earlier one (1.3%).

The overall survival rate of athletes with cardiac arrest increased by two-thirds, from 20% in the earlier survey to 60% in later survey.

Survival rates to hospital admission and discharge were significantly higher in the later period. In 2011 to 2016, 85% of patients survived to hospital admission compared to the 51% in 2005 to 2010. The corresponding rates of survival to hospital discharge were 43% versus 26%, respectively. In-hospital mortality remained stable at around 51%. The overall burden of death due to sports-related sudden cardiac arrest decreased from 4.3 to 3.4 deaths per million inhabitants per year.

In multivariable analysis, the only factors independently associated with increased survival to hospital discharge were shockable rhythm (odds ratio 6.82; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.77–19.80; p<0.001) and bystander CPR (odds ratio 7.89; 95% CI 3.18–23.0; p<0.001).

Prof Jouven said: “We observed an important decrease in deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest during sports over a 12-year period which was related to more frequent CPR. The static incidence is probably caused by difficulties in early identification of individuals at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest during sports.”

“To further improve survival from cardiac arrest, CPR should be taught to the general public and particularly to sports medicine practitioners,” said Prof Jouven. “An AED should be available in all sports venues. Preventing sudden cardiac arrest remains the ideal goal – in the future, smartwatches and internet-connected T-shirts may alert us to warning signs occurring minutes or hours before, allowing early resuscitation and prevention.”


Notes to editor

Notes to editors

Authors: ESC Press Office 
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Funding: The Paris-SDEC activities are supported by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), Paris Descartes University, Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, Fondation Coeur et Artères, Global Heart Watch, Fédération Française de Cardiologie, Société Française de Cardiologie, Fondation Recherche Medicale, as well as unrestricted grants from industrial partners (Medtronic, St Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, Liva Nova and Biotronik).

Disclosures: None.

References and notes

(1) The abstract “Temporal trends in sports-related sudden cardiac death” will be presented during the session Late Breaking Science in Arrhythmias on Monday 2 September at 08:30 to 10:00 CEST in Balzac – The Hub.

(2) Pre-participation cardiovascular evaluation for athletic participants to prevent sudden death: Position paper from the EHRA and the EACPR, branches of the ESC. Europace. 2017;19:139–163. doi:10.1093/europace/euw243.

About ESC Congress

ESC Congress is the world’s largest gathering of cardiovascular professionals contributing to global awareness of the latest clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries. ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology takes place from 31 August to 4 September at the Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris, France. Explore the scientific programme.

About the European Society of Cardiology 

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

This press release accompanies both a presentation and an ESC press conference at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Society of Cardiology.