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Pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment of commotio cordis.

Commotio cordis is increasing described and it is now clear that this phenomenon is an important cause of sudden cardiac death on the playing field. Victims are predominantly young, male, and struck in the left chest with a ball. An animal model has been developed and utilized to explore the important variables and mechanism of commotio cordis. Impact during a narrow window of repolarization causes ventricular fibrillation. Other important variables include location, velocity, shape, and hardness of the impact object. Biological characteristics such as gender, pliability of the chest wall, and genetic susceptibility also play a role in commotio cordis. The mechanism of ventricular fibrillation appears to be an increase in heterogeneity of repolarization caused by induced abnormalities of ion channels activated by abrupt increases in left ventricular pressure. In the setting of altered repolarization a trigger of ventricular depolarization (premature ventricular depolarization caused directly by the chest blow) initiates a spiral wave that quickly breaks down into ventricular fibrillation. Prevention of commotio cordis is possible. Improved recognition and resuscitation have led to an improvement in outcome.

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