Doctors baffled by Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) in healthy young people

Doctors baffled by increase in Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS)

Doctors baffled by increase in Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS). Image: Claire Smith/Unsplash

DOCTORS in Australia are developing the country’s first SADS registry after recent incidents of healthy young people dying from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, or Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), is an “umbrella term to describe unexpected deaths in young people” and this ‘mysterious’ syndrome is said to have left doctors in Australia searching for more answers.

This has led doctors at Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute to create the country’s first SADS registry which they hope to roll out across the country in order to gain more information about this sudden death phenomenon.

“In our registry, there are approximately 750 cases per year of people aged under 50 in Victoria suddenly having their heart stop (a cardiac arrest),” a spokeswoman said.

“Of these, approximately 100 young people per year will have no cause found even after extensive investigations such as a full autopsy (the SADS phenomenon).”

According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), SADS usually occurs in healthy adults under 40 and the term is used when a post-mortem can find no obvious cause of death.

As reported by, cardiologist and researcher Dr Elizabeth Paratz said Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute registry: “[allows you to see] people who have had the cardiac arrest with no cause was found on the back end.”

Dr Paratz said that “the majority of these SADS events, 90 per cent, occur outside the hospital – the person doesn’t make it – so it’s actually ambulance staff and forensics caring for the bulk of these patients.”

She added: “I think even doctors underestimate [SADS]. We only see the 10 per cent who survive and make it to hospital. We only see the tip of the iceberg ourselves.”

“If someone has a heart attack and you do an autopsy you might see a big clot, that’s a positive finding, but when someone’s had one of these SADS events, the heart is pristine,” she said.

“It’s really hard to know what to do.”

SADS Foundation, a US-based patient and family support program for those dealing with genetic conditions that cause sudden cardiac death in the young or who have lost a loved one to sudden unexplained death, said that “SADS conditions occur because the electrical system of the heart is not working properly, so that the heart beats with an abnormal rhythm.”

However, “these conditions can be treated and deaths can be prevented,” the foundation said.

The foundation added that SADS deaths in children, teens or young adults could be because of a family history of a SADS diagnosis or sudden unexplained death of a family member, fainting or seizure during exercise, or when excited or startled.

They also said that over half of the 4,000 annual SADS deaths in the country, within the aforementioned age ranges, have followed one of these warning signs.

As noted by the foundation, SADS events are not just confined to Australia or to adults, with Euro Weekly News reporting some of the following incidents which may have been related to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome:

On Monday, May 30, Aidan Kaminska, a star lacrosse player at the University of Massachusetts, died suddenly at the age of 19.

On May 28, Piata Tauwhare, a newlywed bride, 30, originally from New Zealand, was found dead in a tanning cubicle, in Swansea, South Wales.

On Sunday, May 15, former Swansea defender Mark Davies died suddenly aged 49 after collapsing on the pitch during a Wales Veterans’ Cup final.

On Thursday, May 5, a man died suddenly on a Jet2 flight from Spain’s Malaga to Glasgow.

The flight had to be diverted to Nantes Atlantique Airport in France due to the customer requiring urgent medical attention, however, it was later revealed that the man had died.

On Tuesday, May 3, popular businessman Lorenzo Ortego, director of the Vital Suites – Residence, Health & Spa, from Gran Canaria died unexpectedly.

In the UK on Tuesday, May 3, a sailor during Finn Masters Race at Keyhaven Yacht Club in Milford on Sea, Lymington died suddenly leading to a police investigation.

On March 9, Commonwealth Games cyclist John Paul – who represented Scotland at Glasgow 2014 – died suddenly aged 28.

On Sunday, April 3, a 13-year-old footballer from Cadiz in Spain’s Andalucia died suddenly.

Prior to that, on March 28, another 13-year-old passed away on the Costa del Sol.

The young teenage boy was playing in the playground with the rest of his classmates at the Sierra de Mijas Secondary Education Institute, located in the province of Malaga when he allegedly fainted without prior warning and died at the scene.

Dr Paratz stated that scientists were still unable to determine “what genes cause [SADS]” and urged people to get checked, even if they are fit and healthy.

“The best advice would be, if you yourself have had a first-degree relative – a parent, sibling, child – who’s had an unexplained death, it’s extremely recommended you see a cardiologist,” she said.

“Anyone else, (see a cardiologist) if you have cardiac symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or you can’t keep up with friends exercising or walking.”

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Written by

Matthew Roscoe

Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at