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New Test for 'Sudden Death'

It spots abnormal heart rhythms that cause cardiac arrest

More than 250,000 Americans die each year from sudden cardiac arrest. The disorder is caused by abnormal heart rhythms and rarely provides any warning to its victims. Many people have no idea they even have a heart problem.

A new test, developed by British researchers, may help prevent some cases of sudden cardiac arrest. In Britain, the condition is called sudden adult death syndrome. Most cases of the syndrome occur because of ventricular fibrillation, says this article from the BBC News. Ventricular fibrillation causes the heart to beat abnormally. The test diagnoses delays in the transmission of electrical impulses in the heart.

If people know they have ventricular fibrillation, they can be fitted with an internal defibrillator that can shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. But finding people who need the device has been difficult, says the article.

"If we can identify who may be prone to this condition, they can be fitted with a defibrillator that might help save their lives," says Gabby Yorath, whose 15-year-old brother died of sudden adult death syndrome.

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