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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1992 Sep;20(3):640-7.

Sudden cardiac death associated with isolated congenital coronary artery anomalies.

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Department of Medicine, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.



Congenital coronary anomalies are associated with sudden death and exercise-related death. Clarification of the risk and mechanisms of sudden death in patients with coronary anomalies may aid in decisions on intervention.


The clinicopathologic records of 242 patients with isolated coronary artery anomalies were reviewed for information on mode of death and abnormalities of the initial segment (acute angle takeoff, valvelike ridges or aortic intramural segments) and course of the anomalous coronary artery.


Cardiac death occurred in 142 patients (59%); 78 (32%) of these deaths occurred suddenly. Of sudden deaths, 45% occurred with exercise. Sudden death (28 of 49, 57%) and exercise-related death (18 of 28, 64%) were most common with origin of the left main coronary artery from the right coronary sinus. Anomalous origin of the right coronary artery from the left coronary sinus was also commonly associated with exercise-related sudden death (6 of 13 sudden deaths, 46%). High risk anatomy involved abnormalities of the initial coronary artery segment or coursing of the anomalous artery between the pulmonary artery and aorta. Younger patients (less than or equal to 30 years old) were significantly more likely than older patients (greater than or equal to 30 years old) to die suddenly (62% vs. 12%, p = 0.0001) or during exercise (40% vs. 2%, p = 0.00001) despite their low frequency of significant atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (1% vs. 40%, p = 0.00001).


Younger patients (less than or equal to 30 years old) with an isolated coronary artery anomaly are at risk of dying suddenly and with exercise. Therefore, greater effort for early detection and surgical repair of these lesions is warranted.

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