Globally, around 4.25 million people a year die from sudden cardiac death[1] so it isn’t surprising that the British Heart Foundation has been regularly talking about the importance of better understanding ventricular cardiac arrhythmias as the issue poses a major public health challenge. The critical element of this is that many people are totally unaware of the risk – around 50% of patients have no prior known heart disease[2]. There is consequently an urgent need to better understand these heart conditions, how to identify those at risk, what causes them and how to treat them, so that more lives can be saved.

Over the last few years, sudden, cardiac arrests have hit the headlines after several high-profile sports stars were affected. In 2012, Bolton Wanderers star Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during the club’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur and his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes. More recently, Nottinghamshire and England cricketer, James Taylor was forced to retire at the age of 26 after a scan revealed that he has an inherited heart condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

Experts emphasise the importance of screening for cardiac conditions as early detection can go a long way in increasing a person’s life expectancy and some have even supported mandatory reporting of all sudden cardiac death cases to help better identify those who may be at risk. Magnetocardiography (MCG) has the potential to play a large role in this area, whether it is screening relatives of people who have died from sudden cardiac conditions or supporting with risk stratification to help identify those people most at risk of ventricular arrhythmias. While further research is required, early indications strongly suggest that MCG will support the effective identification and subsequent treatment of those who are most at risk of suffering a sudden cardiac event and become a critical tool in a health professional’s armoury.

[1] Mendis SPP, Norrving B. Global Atlas on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2011.

[2] Myerburg RJ et al. Sudden cardiac death. Structure, function, and time-dependence of risk. Circulation 1992; 85: I2–10