Sudden Cardiac Death – SCD – Paris hospital opens research unit …

You’ve no doubt heard it being said of someone’s death that he/she just fell down dead. If it is an older person one is inclined to think, “how lucky: there was no suffering”. Such falling down dead, or not waking up in the morning – Sudden Cardiac Death – is now to be studied by […]

Paris's Georges Pompidou Hospital opened in 2001


You’ve no doubt heard it being said of someone’s death that he/she just fell down dead. If it is an older person one is inclined to think, “how lucky: there was no suffering”.

Such falling down dead, or not waking up in the morning – Sudden Cardiac Death – is now to be studied by a special research unit in Paris’s Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou – Georges Pompidou Hospital, or to give its full name, the European Georges Pompidou Hospital.

At the head of the unit is Prof Xavier Jouven.

Prof Xavier Jouven

The hospital opened in 2001. A large glass structure, it is in the 15th arrondissement (district) of Paris at the Porte de Sèvres, one of the city’s “gates”.

Prof Jouven is a renowned cardiologist, electrophysiologist and epidemiologist. He has since the late 1990s researched SCD.

Each year 40,000 adults die in France of SCD. In the States the SCD death rate stands at approximately 250,000 annually.

Back in 1999 the American Heart Association published a report of a study which was headed by Prof Jouven which revealed that SCD can run in families.  Said the professor at that time: “Physicians generally ask patients whether they have a family history of heart attacks. It would now be useful to ask patients about a possible parental history of sudden death.”

The professor continued by saying that the risk of sudden death among men whose mother or father had experienced sudden death was almost double that of men whose parents did not suffer sudden death. If both one’s parents had died of sudden death, a man’s chance of dying like that too was nine times higher than for a man whose parents had not died of sudden death.  He also pointed out that a SCD victim may not have had a previously diagnosed heart disease.

That was in 1999 when a French team of researchers had just completed a 23-year study of 7,079 men who were young at the start of the research and middle-aged at its completion.

Of those 7079 men, 2083 died before the completion of the study – 118 of sudden death and 192 of fatal heart attacks. Of the latter group, 19 (9.9%) had a parent who was victim of SCD.

“Until this study, there was no known risk factor for identifying people at increased risk of sudden death other than the known risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as advancing age, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, and elevations of blood pressure, resting heart rate, and blood cholesterol,” Prof Jouven said at the time.

Today we know that women run the same risk of SCD as men.

SCD manifests itself as ventricular tachycardia (VT), ventricular fibrillatin (VF), pulseless electric activity (PEA) or asystole. It can happen at any age, but usually happens before the age of 65.

Even should emergency medical care reach a victim, the survival rate is around 4% only.

Prof Jouven’s research unit at Georges Pompidou Hospital which opened on Friday, September 9, will not only endeavour to identity possible victims of SCD, but also to prevent such deaths. The unit will also inform and instruct those in the medical world of the risks, prevention and treatment of SCD.

It is the first of its kind in the world.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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