Study Examines Families’ Experience of Sudden Cardiac Death

In HealthDay News
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Themes include searching for answers and processing cause of death, incidental implications of SCD event

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 4, 2023 (HealthDay News) — For families of young sudden cardiac death (SCD) victims, communication is key, but the type, format, and timing of information received varies, which can impact the experience of processing the death, according to a study published online April 4 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Katherine S. Allan, Ph.D., from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues conducted a qualitative descriptive study interviewing families of young SCD victims (aged 12 to 45 years) who died between 2014 and 2018 from a heritable cardiac condition. The transcripts were analyzed using a thematic analysis.

Nineteen family members were interviewed (10 men and nine women), with ages ranging from 21 to 65 years. The researchers identified four main themes, each representing a distinct time period that families experience: (1) interactions between family and others, specifically coroners, shaping their investigation into the cause of death, with variation noted in the types, formats, and timing of communication; (2) searching for answers and processing the cause of death; (3) incidental implications of the SCD event, including lifestyle changes and financial strain, which contribute to stress; and (4) receiving or not receiving answers and moving forward.

“Findings suggest that communication formats, methods, and processes can influence families’ perceived risk and decision to pursue cascade screening,” the authors write. “These results may provide key insights for coroners, death investigators, medical examiners, and other members of the interprofessional health care team responsible for the delivery and communication of the cause of death to families of SCD victims.”

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