Overview

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

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

Brugada syndrome treatments include preventive measures such as avoiding aggravating medications and reducing fever. When necessary, treatment may also include a medical device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

Symptoms

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

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

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

A major sign of Brugada syndrome is an abnormal 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 some other heart rhythm problems. It's important that you see your doctor to find out if Brugada syndrome or another heart rhythm problem is causing your 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 doctor if you should have testing to see if you're at risk of Brugada syndrome.

Causes

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

In Brugada syndrome, a defect in these channels causes your heart to beat abnormally fast, creating a dangerous heart rhythm (ventricular fibrillation).

As a result, your heart doesn't pump enough blood to the rest of your body. You can faint if the abnormal rhythm lasts for a short time. Sudden cardiac death can occur if the abnormal heart beat doesn't stop.

Brugada syndrome may be caused by:

  • Structural abnormality in your heart, which may be hard to detect
  • An imbalance in chemicals that help send electrical signals through your 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). If other family members have had Brugada syndrome, you're at an increased 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 other races.
  • Fever. A fever doesn't cause Brugada syndrome, but it can irritate the heart and trigger fainting or sudden cardiac arrest in someone with Brugada syndrome, especially in children.

Complications

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

  • Sudden cardiac arrest. If not treated immediately, this sudden loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness, which often occurs while sleeping, is fatal. With fast, appropriate medical care, survival is possible.
  • Fainting. If you have Brugada syndrome and you faint, get 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.