Sudden cardiac death accounts for approximately 50% of all deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease in the United States. It is most commonly associated with coronary artery disease and can be its initial manifestation or may occur in the period after an acute myocardial infarction. Decreasing the rate of sudden cardiac death requires the identification and treatment of at-risk patients through evidence-based pharmacotherapy and interventional strategies aimed at primary and secondary prevention. For this review, we searched PubMed for potentially relevant articles published from January 1, 1970, through March 1, 2014, using the following key search terms: sudden cardiac death, ischemic heart disease, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, and cardiac arrest. Searches were enhanced by scanning bibliographies of identified articles, and those deemed relevant were selected for full-text review. This review outlines various mechanisms for sudden cardiac death in the setting of coronary artery disease, describes risk factors for sudden cardiac death, explores the management of cardiac arrest, and outlines optimal practice for the monitoring and treatment of patients after an acute ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction to decrease the risk of sudden death.
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