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Ethiop Med J. 2001 Oct;39(4):323-40.

Causes of sudden death in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the causes of death in individuals who died suddenly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The selection of the cases was based on police reports, which contained a description of sudden unexpected or instantaneous death. The study was performed on necropsies of the Medico legal Department of Menelik II Hospital, in Addis Ababa during the years 1998 and 1999. According to the pathological features of the heart, we classified 92 dead bodies in 3 groups: Group A: Hearts showing adequate morphological changes to explain sudden death (n = 63). Group B: Hearts showing some structural changes, but inadequate to explain sudden death (n = 20). Group C: Normal hearts (n = 7). In two bodies the general autopsy revealed an extra cardiac cause of death. The single most relevant cause of death in group A was coronary artery disease (44 cases) followed by excessive myocardial hypertrophy due to post-rheumatic valvular lesions (7 cases). While the high prevalence of rheumatic heart disease in Ethiopia is well known, the proportion of cases who died due to coronary heart disease is surprising. Though during the last years some African authors assumed that coronary atherosclerosis is on the increase in developing countries the percentage is higher than expected and higher than in other countries where similar studies exist.

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