Negative autopsy is a post-mortem examination in which a comprehensive analysis does not provide a cause of death. These include situation of death, anatomical and histological analysis, toxicology and microbiological study. A low part of autopsies remain without a conclusive cause of death, but all these cases are usually seen in young population, apparently healthy who died suddenly and unexpectedly. In these situations a cardiac arrhythmia is suspected as cause of death and genetic testing is recommended despite not regularly performed. Sudden death is a natural and unexpected decease that occurs in apparently healthy people, or whose disease was not severe enough to expect a fatal outcome. It can be due to several pathologies, usually of cardiac cause and called sudden cardiac death. In infants and young people, both long QT syndrome and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia are main causes in negative autopsies. These genetic diseases lead to ventricular fibrillation, syncope and sudden cardiac death in a normal heart. Unfortunately, sudden cardiac death could be the first manifestation of the diseases, being early identification and prevention a crucial point in current medical practice. This chapter focuses on sudden death and negative autopsy in young population, mainly due to cardiac arrhythmias.
Part of the book: Post Mortem Examination and Autopsy
Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is a rare genetic entity characterized by progressive fibro-fatty replacement of myocardium leading to malignant arrhythmias, syncope, and sudden cardiac death. Mostly it affects the right ventricle, but cases have also been described with biventricular and even isolated left ventricular involvement. The disease affects mainly young males and arrhythmias are usually induced by exercise. Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy has a genetic origin and is basically caused by deleterious alterations in genes encoding desmosomal proteins, especially plakophilin-2. To date, more than 400 rare genetic alterations have been identified in 18 genes, mainly with autosomal dominant inheritance, but some recessive forms have also been reported (Naxos disease and Carvajal syndrome). A comprehensive genetic analysis identifies a rare variant as potential cause of the disease in around 60% of patients, suggesting the existence of unknown genes as well as other genome alterations not yet discovered. Genetic interpretation classifies some of these rare variants as ambiguous, playing an uncertain role in arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. This makes a proper translation of genetic data into clinical practice difficult. Moreover, incomplete penetrance and variable phenotypic expression makes it difficult to arrive at the correct diagnosis. In the present chapter, we focus on recent advances in the knowledge regarding the genetic basis of arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.
Part of the book: Cardiomyopathy