Disclosures: Finocchiaro and two other authors report they received grant support from Cardiac Risk in the Young. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 12, 2022
1 min read
Save

Sexual activity-related sudden cardiac death rare

Disclosures: Finocchiaro and two other authors report they received grant support from Cardiac Risk in the Young. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact customerservice@slackinc.com.

Sudden cardiac death during or immediately following sexual activity is rare, according to new data published in JAMA: Cardiology.

According to a research letter by Gherardo Finocchiaro, MD, PhD, cardiology consultant at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital and honorary senior lecturer at St George’s University of London, and colleagues, the most common autopsy finding among this small group of individuals who experience sexual activity-related cardiac death was sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.

Heart broken 2019
Source: Adobe Stock

Sudden cardiac death may occur in various circumstances, including physical exercise and sexual intercourse,” the researchers wrote. “A forensic study found that 0.2% of natural deaths that underwent autopsy were associated with sexual activity and predominantly involved middle-aged men.”

The researchers, therefore, sought to discern what proportion of sudden cardiac deaths were associated with sexual activity, the characteristics of this population and the underlying causes of death.

For this analysis, researchers reviewed cases of sudden cardiac death referred to the Centre for Cardiac Pathology at St George’s University of London from 1994 to August 2020. Sudden cardiac death was defined as death within 12 hours of apparent well-being.

Of 6,847 cases of sudden cardiac death, death occurred during or within 1 hour after sexual activity in 17 cases (0.2%).

Among individuals who experienced sudden cardiac death following sexual activity, the mean age was 38 years and 65% were men.

According to the study, sudden cardiac death associated with sexual activity represented a small proportion of cases, when causes of death were analyzed:

  • sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (9 of 3,426; 0.2%);
  • arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (2 of 274; 0.7%);
  • hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (1 of 265; 0.3%);
  • aortic dissection (2 of 97; 2%);
  • ischemic heart disease (1 of 573; 0.1%);
  • idiopathic fibrosis (1 of 165; 0.6%);
  • idiopathic left ventricular hypertrophy (1 of 251; 0.3%); and
  • mitral valve prolapse (1 of 84; 1%)

“Younger individuals (aged < 50 years) with cardiac conditions, such as cardiomyopathies and channelopathies, may be concerned about their risk for sudden death during sexual intercourse because of the catecholaminergic surge that accompanies this activity,” the researchers wrote. “We believe these findings provide some reassurance that engaging in sexual activity is relatively safe in patients with a cardiac condition, especially in younger (aged < 50 years) individuals.”