Unusual cause of exercise-induced ventricular fibrillation in a well-trained adult endurance athlete: a case report

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Abstract

The diseases responsible for sudden deaths in athletes differ considerably with regard to age. In young athletes, congenital malformations of the heart and/or vascular system cause the majority of deaths and can only be detected noninvasively by complex diagnostics. In contrast, in older athletes who die suddenly, atherosclerotic disease of the coronary arteries is mostly found. Reports of congenital coronary anomalies as a cause of sudden death in older athletes are rare.

Case presentation
A 48-year-old man who was a well-trained, long-distance runner collapsed at the finish of a half marathon because of a myocardial infarction with ventricular fibrillation. Coronary angiography showed an anomalous origin of the right coronary artery from the left sinus of Valsalva with minimal wall alterations. Multislice computed tomography of the coronary arteries confirmed these findings. Cardiomagnetic resonance imaging demonstrated a mild hypokinesia of the basal right- and left-ventricular posterior wall. An electrophysiological study showed an inducible temporary polymorphic ventricular tachycardia and an inducible ventricular fibrillation. The athlete was subsequently treated by acetylsalicylic acid 100 mg (0-1-0), bisoprolol 2.5 mg (1-0-0) and atorvastatin 10 mg (0-0-1) and was instructed to keep his training intensity under the 'individual anaerobic threshold'. Intense and long-lasting exercise under extreme environmental conditions, particularly heat, should also be avoided.

Conclusion
This case report presents a coronary anomaly as the most likely reason for an exercise-induced myocardial infarction with ventricular fibrillation in a well-trained 48-year-old endurance athlete. Therefore, coronary anomalies have also to be considered as a possible cause of cardiac problems in older athletes.

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Introduction
Sudden death has been defined as \an abrupt unexpected death of cardiovascular cause, in which the loss of consciousness occurs within 1 to 12 hours of onset of symptoms\" [1]. Although sudden deaths in athletes are dramatic and tragic occurrences, the total incidence of sudden death during sport is rather low. The annual incidence of sudden deaths in athletes under 35 years is 2.62 per 100,000 for male and 1.07 for female athletes [2], whereas the risk of sudden death in athletes over 60 years old can be 100-fold higher compared with young athletes [3]. The precise diseases responsible for sudden death differ considerably with regard to age. In young athletes, congenital malformations of the heart and/or vascular system cause the majority of deaths and can only be detected noninvasively by complex diagnostics [4,5]. In contrast, the underlying cause in older athletes who die suddenly is usually atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries [3]. Reports of congenital coronary anomalies as a cause of sudden death in older athletes are rare.

This case report presents a coronary anomaly as the most likely reason for an episode of exercise-induced ventricular fibrillation in a well-trained 48-year-old endurance athlete.

Case presentation
A 48-year-old, well-trained, long-distance runner collapsed at the finish of a half marathon. On the day of the incident, the air temperature was relatively high (25°C). Against his usual practice, the athlete tried to accelerate on the last hundred meters towards the finish line. Immediately after the collapse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation with defibrillation of ventricular fibrillation was successfully carried out.

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References
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