Brugada syndrome: What are the signs and symptoms?

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Brugada syndrome: What are the signs and symptoms?

Question

What does Brugada sign mean? My 16-year-old son has this but has no symptoms. Is this unusual?

Tsila
Israel

Answer

The term "Brugada sign" refers to an abnormality on an electrocardiogram (ECG) — a test that records the electrical activity of your heart — that may indicate Brugada syndrome. Brugada syndrome is a genetic disorder in which an abnormality in the heart's electrical system causes life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias).

It's possible — and even common — to have a Brugada sign without having Brugada syndrome. In these cases, a Brugada sign may result, for instance, from a structural abnormality in your heart, electrolyte abnormalities, or the effects of certain prescription medications or cocaine use.

However, if you have a Brugada sign and also have a history of fainting, a history of serious arrhythmias, or a family history of sudden cardiac death, it's likely that you have Brugada syndrome.

Brugada syndrome is an inherited condition that occurs most often in men. It also occurs with increased frequency in Asians.

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. In Brugada syndrome, a defect in these channels causes episodes of abnormal electrical function.

During these episodes, the pumping function of the heart is impaired. This decreases blood flow to the brain, causing fainting. It may also lead to chaotic, uncoordinated electrical activity (ventricular fibrillation), which causes the heart to quiver and stop pumping blood. Sudden death usually follows — unless the heart receives an immediate electrical shock from a device called a defibrillator.

Treatment of Brugada syndrome depends on the risk of arrhythmia. Those considered at high risk have:

  • A family history of sudden cardiac death
  • A personal history of serious heart rhythm problems
  • A personal history of severe fainting spells

Your doctor may recommend additional testing to further evaluate your risk of dangerous heart rhythms.

For high-risk individuals, treatment may include an implantable defibrillator. This small device continuously monitors your heart rhythm and delivers precisely calibrated electrical shocks when needed to control abnormal heartbeats.

Last Updated: 05/29/2007
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