Overview

Brugada (brew-GAH-dah) syndrome is a rare but potentially life-threatening heart rhythm condition (arrhythmia) that is sometimes inherited.

People with Brugada syndrome have an increased risk of irregular heart rhythms beginning in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).

Treatment of Brugada syndrome includes preventive measures such as reducing fever and avoiding medications that might trigger the arrhythmia. Some people with Brugada syndrome need a medical device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

Symptoms

Brugada syndrome often doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. Many people with Brugada syndrome don't know they have it.

Signs and symptoms that may be associated with Brugada syndrome include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Gasping and labored breathing, particularly at night
  • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
  • Extremely fast and chaotic heartbeat
  • Seizures

A major sign of Brugada syndrome is an irregular result on an electrocardiogram (ECG), a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart.

When to see a doctor

Brugada syndrome signs and symptoms are similar to those of some other heart rhythm disorders. It's important that you see a health care provider to find out if Brugada syndrome or another heart rhythm disorder is causing symptoms.

If you faint and you think it may be because of a heart condition, seek emergency medical attention.

If your parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, you may want to ask your provider if you should have testing to see if you're at risk of Brugada syndrome.

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Causes

Brugada syndrome is a heart rhythm disorder. Each beat of the heart is triggered by an electrical signal made by special cells in the right upper chamber of the heart. Tiny pores, called channels, on each of these cells direct this electrical activity, which makes the heart beat.

In Brugada syndrome, a change in these channels causes the heart to beat too fast, creating a dangerous heart rhythm (ventricular fibrillation).

As a result, the heart doesn't pump enough blood to the rest of the body. An irregular rhythm that lasts for a short time can cause fainting. Sudden cardiac death can occur if the irregular heartbeat doesn't stop.

Brugada syndrome may be caused by:

  • A structural problem in the heart, which may be hard to detect
  • An imbalance in chemicals that help send electrical signals through the body (electrolytes)
  • Use of certain prescription medications or cocaine

Risk factors

Risk factors for Brugada syndrome include:

  • Family history of Brugada syndrome. This condition is often passed down through families (inherited). Having family members with Brugada syndrome increases a person's risk of having it, too.
  • Being male. Men are more frequently diagnosed with Brugada syndrome than are women.
  • Race. Brugada syndrome occurs more frequently in Asians than in people of other races.
  • Fever. A fever doesn't cause Brugada syndrome, but it can irritate the heart and trigger fainting or sudden cardiac arrest in people with Brugada syndrome, especially children.

Complications

Complications of Brugada syndrome require emergency medical care. Brugada syndrome complications include:

  • Sudden cardiac arrest. If not treated immediately, this sudden loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness, which often occurs while sleeping, is deadly. With fast, appropriate medical care, survival is possible.
  • Fainting. With Brugada syndrome, fainting requires emergency medical attention.

Prevention

If someone in your family has Brugada syndrome, genetic testing can be done to determine if you have, or are at risk of, the condition.

May 05, 2022
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