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Schizophr Res. 2013 Nov;150(2-3):398-403. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.08.029. Epub 2013 Sep 9.

Postmortem analysis of cardiovascular deaths in schizophrenia: a 10-year review.

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Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology, Centenary Institute, Newtown, NSW, Australia.


Schizophrenia is a devastating mental disorder, associated with mortality rates up to three times higher than those in the general population. This post-mortem study sought to investigate the causes of death in a consecutive series of schizophrenia cases, with a specific focus on cardiovascular disease and sudden death. A 10-year review of autopsies in schizophrenia related-cases performed at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Sydney, Australia was undertaken. Premorbid clinical and demographic information was recorded, as well as the key pathological findings and final cause of death. From 2003 to 2012, there were 19,478 postmortem examinations performed of which 683 (3.5%) were deaths in people with a history of schizophrenia. In these cases, the mean age at death was 51years (range 18-93years), with 43% in the 41-60year age group. Males comprised 67% of cases. Overall, 62% of cases had a BMI≥25kg/m(2), indicating overweight or obese individuals. The three primary causes of death were "cardiovascular" (23%), "suicide" (20%), and "drug toxicity" (17%). In 11% of cases (n=72), no definitive cause of death was found, the so-called "unexplained" cases. In conclusion, patients with schizophrenia have premature mortality. The major contributing factors include cardiovascular diseases, suicide and drug toxicity. The "unexplained" and frequently sudden deaths may suggest underlying cardiac arrhythmias as a cause of death in a subgroup of schizophrenia patients.


Cardiovascular disease; Sudden unexplained death

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