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Study Recommends Screening Babies for Heart Rhythm Defect - Long QT Syndrome Could Be Cause Of Sudden Infant Death 

July 13th 2006

Study Recommends Screening Babies for Heart Rhythm Defect - Long QT Syndrome Could Be Cause Of Sudden Infant Death

Screening Saves Lives

Italian heart specialists are “urgently” recommending that all children around three to four years of age be screened to pick up a life-threatening genetic condition called Long QT Syndrome (LQTS). The researchers did a cost analysis and have found that a significant number of sudden deaths could be prevented for less than €12,000 per year-of-life saved.

Long QT syndrome is an electrical rhythm disorder of the heart.  There are rarely symptoms and it is a leading cause of sudden death in children and young adults.  They say that when it occurs in infants their deaths are usually mislabeled as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


The researchers completed their study on 200 victims of SIDS from Norway and have found genetic mutations diagnostic for LQTS in almost 10% of the cases. In Italy there are about 220 out of 550,000 newborns per year affected by LQTS.  Lead researcher, Professor Peter J. Schwartz of the University of Pavia and IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, said without screening 13.5% (or 30) would die early.

They believe that early treatment of LQTS could save lives.  The treatment involves medication like beta-blockers, sympathetic denervation or the use of implantable defibrillators. 

"The cost per year-of-life saved by identifying and treating LQTS is really very low – €11,740: for saving one entire life of 70 years we are looking at just €820,000. When, to account for what happens in the real world, we also consider the two other congenital heart diseases that routine ECG screening can pick up, then the cost per year-of-life saved is only just over €7,000 or around €490,000 over a 70-year lifetime."

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