Brugada (brew-GAH-dah) syndrome is a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder. It's characterized by a specific abnormal heartbeat called a Brugada sign, which is detected by an electrocardiogram test. Brugada syndrome is frequently an inherited condition.
Many people who have Brugada syndrome don't have any symptoms, and so they're unaware of their condition. Brugada syndrome is much more common in men than in women.
Brugada syndrome is treatable using a medical device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.
Many people who have Brugada syndrome are undiagnosed because the condition often doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms.
The most important sign or symptom of Brugada syndrome is an abnormal pattern on an electrocardiogram (ECG) called a Brugada sign. A Brugada sign is a pattern of heartbeats that's found on a test of your heart rhythm (electrocardiogram, or ECG). You can't feel a Brugada sign — it's only detected on an ECG.
It's possible to have a Brugada sign without having Brugada syndrome. However, signs and symptoms that could mean you have Brugada syndrome include:
Brugada syndrome signs and symptoms are similar to some other heart rhythm problems, so it's essential that you see your doctor to find out if Brugada syndrome or another heart rhythm problem is causing your symptoms.
When to see a doctor
If your parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can discuss whether you should have genetic testing to see if you're at risk of Brugada syndrome.
Brugada syndrome is a heart rhythm disorder. Each beat of your heart is triggered by an electrical impulse generated by special cells in the right upper chamber of your heart. Tiny pores, called channels, on each of these cells direct this electrical activity, which makes your heart beat. In Brugada syndrome, a defect in these channels can cause your heart to beat abnormally.
During these episodes, your heart doesn't pump effectively. As a result, not enough blood travels to the rest of your body. This can cause fainting or sudden cardiac death.
Brugada syndrome is usually inherited, but it may also result from a hard-to-detect structural abnormality in your heart, imbalances in chemicals that help transmit electrical signals through your body (electrolytes), or the effects of certain prescription medications or cocaine use.
Brugada syndrome usually is diagnosed in adults and, sometimes, in adolescents. It's rarely diagnosed in young children.
Risk factors for Brugada syndrome include:
Complications of Brugada syndrome require emergency medical care. They include:
Preparing for your appointment
If your doctor thinks you have Brugada syndrome, you'll likely need several appointments to confirm the diagnosis and figure out how serious your condition is. Your doctor should give you instructions before each appointment on specific preparations.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For Brugada syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Aside from a typical physical examination and listening to your heart with a stethoscope, tests to see if you have Brugada syndrome include:
Treatments and drugs
Brugada syndrome treatment depends on the risk of an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia). Those considered at high risk have:
Because of the nature of the heart rhythm abnormality, medications usually can't be used to treat Brugada syndrome — only a medical device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator can. Implanting the device is usually recommended for people at high risk of sudden cardiac death or other complications of Brugada syndrome.
Coping and support
Finding out you have Brugada syndrome can be difficult. You may worry if your treatment will work or if other family members could be at risk. There are ways to cope with your feelings about your condition, including:
Last Updated: 2011-05-25
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