Vol 17, No 2 (2010)
Review Article
Published online: 2010-03-29

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Diabetes mellitus and sudden cardiac death: What are the data?

Daniel W. Bergner, Jeffrey J. Goldberger
Cardiol J 2010;17(2):117-129.


Diabetes mellitus has long been linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. However, the magnitude of this association, and the mechanism accounting for this phenomenon, have not been precisely defined. In this review, we evaluate the epidemiological data pertaining to the association between diabetes mellitus and sudden cardiac death and discuss various proposed mechanisms that may account for this relationship. Potential factors contributing to the increased risk of sudden cardiac death observed in patients with diabetes mellitus include silent myocardial ischemia, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, abnormal cardiac repolarization, hypoglycemia, a hypercoaguable state secondary to diabetes mellitus, diabetic cardiomyopathy, and impaired respiratory response to hypoxia and hypercapnea. We conclude that diabetes mellitus does appear to be associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Although this increased risk is relatively modest, given the large number of diabetic patients worldwide, the absolute number of sudden cardiac deaths attributable to diabetes mellitus remains significant. Little evidence exists to support any specific mechanism(s) accounting for this association. Further investigation into the pathophysiology of sudden cardiac death in diabetes mellitus may yield improved risk stratification tools as well as identify novel therapeutic targets.
(Cardiol J 2010; 17, 2: 117-129)

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