ⓘ Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome


ⓘ Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome

Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome is a sudden unexpected death of adolescents and adults, mainly during sleep. One relatively common type is known as Brugada syndrome.

Sudden unexpected death syndrome is rare in most areas around the world. This syndrome occurs in populations that are culturally and genetically distinct and people who leave the population carry with them the vulnerability to die suddenly during sleep. Sudden unexplained death syndrome was first noted in 1977 among southeast Asian Hmong refugees in the United States and Canada. The disease was again noted in Singapore when a retrospective survey of records showed that 230 otherwise healthy Thai foreign workers residing in Singapore died suddenly of unexplained causes between 1982 and 1990.


1. Causes

A sudden death in a young person can be caused by heart disease, medication-related causes or other causes. Rare diseases called channelopathies may play a role such as long QT syndrome LQTS, Brugada syndrome BrS, CPVT catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, PCCD progressive cardiac conduction defect, early repolarisation syndrome, mixed sodium channel disease, and short QT syndrome. No cause of death is found, even after extensive examination in 5% of cases.

Medical examiners have taken into account various factors, such as nutrition, toxicology, heart disease, metabolism, and genetics. Although there is no real known definite cause, extensive research showed people 18 years or older were found to have suffered from a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes oddly thickened without any obvious cause. This was the most commonly identified abnormality in sudden death of young adults. In the instances where people experience sudden death, it is most commonly found that they were suffering from CAD coronary artery disease or ASCAD atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, or any level of stress. However, studies reveal that people experienced early symptoms within the week before the terminal event such as chest pain at ~52% of victims, dyspnea at ~22%, syncope at ~7% and ~19% who experienced no symptoms. Scientists have also associated this syndrome with the gene SCN5A that is mutated and affects the function of the heart. However, all autopsies done on victims who suffered from this syndrome came back negative.

In Thailand, Laos, and the Philippines, bangungot or in their term, sudden adult death syndrome is caused by the Brugada syndrome.


2. Epidemiology

In 1980 a reported pattern of sudden deaths brought attention to the Centers for Disease Control. The first reported sudden death occurred in 1948 when there were 81 series of similar deaths of Filipino men in Oahu County, Hawaii. However, it did not become relevant because there was no pattern associated. This syndrome continued to become more significant as years went on. By the year of 1981-1982, the annual rate in the United States was high with 92/100.000 among Laotians-Hmong, 82/100.000 among other Laotian ethnic groups, and 59/100.000 among Cambodians. This elevated rate is why the pattern of Asian sudden unexpected deaths was brought to attention in the United States.


2.1. Epidemiology Asia

Southeast Asian immigrants, who were mostly fleeing the Vietnam War, most often had this syndrome, marking Southeast Asia as the area containing the most people with this fatal syndrome. However, there are other Asian populations that were affected, such as Filipinos and Chinese immigrants in the Philippines, Japanese in Japan, and natives of Guam in the United States and Guam. Nonetheless, these particular immigrants who had this syndrome were about 33 years old and seemingly healthy and all but one of the Laotian Hmong refugees were men. The condition appears to affect primarily young Hmong men from Laos median age 33 and northeastern Thailand where the population are mainly of Laotian descent.


3. History

Laotian Hmongs were chosen for the study because they had one of the highest sudden death rates while sleeping in the United States. They were originally from Southern China and the highlands of North Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The location that was picked for this study was in Ban Vinai in the Loei Province, which is approximately 15 kilometers from the Lao border. This study took place between October 1982 and June 1983 as this syndrome became more of a relevant pressing issue. Ban Vinai was the location chosen because it had 33.000 refugees in 1982, which was the largest population of victims. Because this syndrome was occurring most commonly in those particular men, researchers found it most beneficial and effective to study the population in which they migrated from instead of studying victims and populations in the U.S. Because of religious limitations the Hmong men in Ban Vinai were not allowed to receive autopsies. Therefore, the only results and research obtained were victims outside of their religion or geographical area. An interview was arranged with the next of kin who lived with the victim, witnessed the death, or found the body. The interviews were open ended and allowed the person who was next of kin to describe what they witnessed and what preceding events they thought were relevant to the victims death. The interviewers also collected information such as illness history, the circumstances of the death, demographic background, and history of any sleep disturbances. A genealogy was then created which included all the relatives and their vital status and circumstances of death.


4. Society and culture

In a medical journal, the author suggested that the Hmong who died were killed by their own beliefs in the spiritual world, otherwise known as Nocturnal pressing spirit attacks. In Indonesia it is called digeuton, which translates to "pressed on" in English. In China it is called bei guǐ yā traditional Chinese: 被鬼壓 ; simplified Chinese: 被鬼压 which translates to "crushed by a ghost" in English. The Dutch call the presence a nachtmerrie, the night-mare. The "merrie" comes from the Middle Dutch mare, an incubus who "lies on peoples chests, suffocating them". This phenomenon is known among the Hmong people of Laos, who ascribe these deaths to a malign spirit, dab tsuam pronounced "dah chua", said to take the form of a jealous woman.

During the 1970s and 1980s, when an outbreak of this syndrome began, many of the Southeast Asians were not able to worship properly due to the guerrilla war against the government of Laos with the United States. Hmong people believe that when they do not worship properly, do not perform religious ritual properly or forget to sacrifice, the ancestor spirits or the village spirits do not protect them, thus allowing the evil spirit to reach them. These attacks induce a nightmare that leads to sleep paralysis when the victim is conscious and experiencing pressure on the chest. It is also common to have a REM state that is out of sequence where there is a mix of brain states that are normally held separate. After the war, the United States government scattered the Hmong across the country to 53 different cities. Once these nightmare visitations began, a shaman was recommended for psychic protection from the spirits of their sleep. However, scattered across 53 different cities, these victims had no access to any or the right shaman to protect them from this syndrome.

Hmong people believed that rejecting the role of becoming a shaman, they are taken into the spirit world.

Bangungot is depicted in the Philippines as a mythological creature called batibat or bangungot. This hag-like creature sits on the victims face or chest so as to immobilize and suffocate him. When this occurs, the victim usually experiences paralysis.

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