The insula and cerebrogenic sudden death

Archives of Neurology
R T Cheung, Vladimir Hachinski

Abstract

Sudden death is an "electrical accident" caused by fatal cardiac arrhythmias. While brain-heart control has physiological advantages, cerebrogenic sudden death and nonfatal cardiovascular disturbances can complicate stroke of all types, seizures and epilepsy, head injury, other neurological conditions, neurosurgical procedures, and intense emotional states. Cerebrogenic cardiovascular and autonomic disturbances include electrocardiographic changes, elevation of cardiac enzymes, cardiac arrhythmias, disturbances of blood pressure regulation, and cerebrogenic pulmonary edema. Evidence from experimental studies and clinical observations indicates a crucial role of the insula in cerebrogenic cardiovascular disturbances and sudden death. Future studies should focus on identification of at-risk patients, confirmation of a vulnerable period of cerebrogenic sudden death in those with different neurological conditions and intense emotional states, and clarification of the neurochemical mediators.

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