What is Brugada Syndrome?
Brugada Syndrome is a rare, inherited condition that causes an irregular heartbeat. This heart rhythm disorder impacts the lower chambers of the heart. Brugada Syndrome is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that, without treatment, can lead to rapid heart failure. It is sometimes referred to as sudden, nocturnal death syndrome because those with this condition can die suddenly in their sleep.
Many people with Brugada Syndrome do not have symptoms and do not realize they have the disorder. Even those who identify an irregular heartbeat may not realize the significance of the condition, as the Brugada Syndrome shares symptoms with many other medical issues. The intensity of symptoms differs from individual to individual.
Brugada Syndrome symptoms:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing (especially at night)
Cardiac arrest (heart failure) may be the first sign of Brugada Syndrome.
There are several Brugada Syndrome causes. Brugada Syndrome is a genetic or inherited heart defect that causes an irregular heartbeat (often feels like the heart is fluttering or flip-flopping). The defect impacts small pores, called channels. These channels direct electrical pulses that trigger each beat of your heart. Consequently, the disruption of these channels causes an erratic heartbeat. Certain medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics can also cause Brugada Syndrome.
Risk factors of Brugada Syndrome include:
- Genetics: Brugada Syndrome is an inherited heart defect often passed down from one generation in a family (parents) to another (children). Anyone with a family history of Brugada Syndrome is at increased risk of the disorder.
- Race: This condition affects a higher percentage of Asians than any other race.
- Gender: This condition affects a higher percentage of males than females.
- Fever: While fevers do not cause Brugada Syndrome, a fever can trigger fainting or heart failure in a person with the condition, particularly children.
Brugada Syndrome diagnosis begins with your doctor performing a routine medical exam, listening to your heart rate, and ordering diagnostic tests. There are several initial tests to diagnose the condition, and additional tests to further confirm the disorder.
Initial Brugada Syndrome Tests:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – This test measures the electrical currents in your heart and displays them as wavy lines on a screen. Doctors examine the display to look for any irregularities. Brugada Syndrome ECG results have identifiable patterns.
- Medication-Assisted ECG – Your doctor may give you medication to make it easier for him or her to identify Brugada Syndrome on the ECG screen.
Additional diagnostic tests for Brugada Syndrome:
- Genetic (DNA) testing – Your doctor will analyze the sequence of the SCN5A gene for any mutations. Mutations in this gene often cause the genetic version of Brugada Syndrome.
- Lab tests – Your doctor looks at potassium and calcium levels to diagnose Brugada Syndrome and to rule out any other potential conditions.
- Electrophysiology (EP) testing – Your doctor inserts catheters into your heart through veins in your legs (femoral veins) to measure the electrical activity of your heart. This is a rare test reserved for unclear diagnoses.
There is currently no cure for Brugada Syndrome. However, there are several treatments available to reduce the dangerous risks associated with the condition. Special implanted medical devices that monitor and regulate heart rate are often used to treat Brugada Syndrome. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help prevent irregular heartbeats. Various other support services and treatments may be available based on individual characteristics such as family history and presenting symptoms.
Common Brugada Syndrome treatments:
- Cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – Your doctor will implant this device on your heart. An ICD detects irregularities in your heartbeat and automatically restores normal rhythm using targeted electrical impulses.
- Medication – Your doctor may prescribe antiarrhythmics that help prevent abnormal heart rate patterns.
- Cardiac Ablation – In this procedure, your doctor concentrates electrical energy or very cold temperatures to eliminate the heart tissue causing the irregular heart rate.
Brugada Syndrome is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. If you or a loved one experience any symptoms of Brugada Syndrome, we recommend that you seek immediate medical attention.
Complications associated with Brugada Syndrome include:
- Sudden heart failure (cardiac arrest) – Without treatment, this complication is often fatal. Sudden loss of heart function can lead to difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. If you receive medical attention immediately, survival is possible.
- Fainting (syncope) – Loss of consciousness with Brugada Syndrome can be fatal. Immediate medical care is strongly recommended.
Brugada Syndrome is a serious, life-threatening disorder. However, it is also a rare condition with available treatments. Baptist Health is here to help.
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