The UK NSC recommendation on screening to prevent Sudden Cardiac Death in 12 to 39 year olds

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed July 2015
Next review due in 2018/19
Key downloads

Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

Systematic population screening for Sudden Cardiac Death is not recommended. This is because:

  • Currently there are a number of uncertainties over the test, the conditions that can cause SCD, and the overall benefit of identifying those at risk when weighed against the potential harms.
  • There is very little research into the reliability of the tests for identifying those at risk of SCD, therefore the UK NSC cannot recommend its use in a screening programme.
  • There is no agreed treatment or care pathway for supporting those who have been identified as at risk of SCD. Someone who is identified as having a high risk of SCD may become anxious about their physical activity and stop regularly exercising which can be detrimental to their overall health.

More about Sudden Cardiac Death

Sudden cardiac death in young people is always shocking and very sad. This is in part because it is so rare. The chances of sudden heart attacks in apparently physically fit young people are tiny. The overwhelming majority of heart attacks happen in elderly people.

The UK NSC previously looked at this issue in 2008, when it reviewed whether screening young people for Hypertrophic Cardiomypopathy should be recommended. The most recent review made recommendations on screening for Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) in people between the ages of 12 and 39.


British Cardiovascular Society
British Congenital Cardiac Association
British Heart Foundation
Cardiac Risk in The Young
Cardio & Vascular Coalition
Cardiomyopathy UK
Children's Heart Federation
Circulation Foundation
Faculty of Public Health
Institute of Child Health
The Oliver King Foundation
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome UK (SADS UK)

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Recommendation Review History

The UK NSC last reviewed this issue in 2008, when it recommended against screening young competitive athletes for Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the single most common cause of SCD in young people. Clinical evidence suggested that the available test was not yet accurate enough to correctly identify conditions which could lead to SCD without wrongly identifying those people with healthy hearts. There was a considerable risk that tests would be positive when the person had no illness (false positives) which could result in healthy people worrying unnecessarily that that they have a heart problem – causing them to change their behaviour and even avoid exercise and activity beneficial to their health overall.

Related documents

icon Appraisal of Harmon review_2015 (PDF document, 224KB, 22/08/18)
icon Screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy_2008 (PDF document, 836KB, 22/08/18)
icon UK NSC Cover Sheet July 2015 (PDF document, 267KB, 30/07/15)

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