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J Pediatr. 2002 Sep;141(3):336-42.

Cardiac pathology in sudden unexpected infant death.

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McGill University Health Center, The Montreal Children's Hospital, Hôpital Ste-Justine, University of Montréal, Québec, Canada.



To determine the spectrum of cardiac pathology and circumstances of death in infants with sudden unexpected death and to define the impact of sudden cardiac deaths to overall sudden infant death.


Retrospective analysis of all autopsies of infants with sudden death 7 days to 2 years of age between January 1987 and December 1999 in the province of Québec (Canada).


Eighty-two cases of sudden death with cardiac pathology were found, representing 10% of the total number of sudden infant deaths. A structural malformation was present in the majority of cases (54%); however, cardiac pathology in anatomically normal hearts was also common (46%). Most (64%) anatomic malformations were detected before death compared with 13% of nonstructural heart disease. Although a major proportion of children were found dead during sleep, a significant number were described as being awake at time of death (32%).


Heart disease is present in a significant percentage of autopsies of infants with sudden death. Structural heart malformations predominate, although nonstructural pathologic features of the heart are common and usually unrecognized before an autopsy is performed. Cardiac pathologic features are frequent when the child is witnessed to be awake at the time of sudden death.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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