Translating Medical Research - Preventing Sudden Heart Death

SAN FRANCISCO, An issue of the renowned New England Journal of Medicine (December 16, 1999) contains an original research article entitled "A Randomized Study of the Prevention of Sudden Death in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease."

The research reported in this article will, we believe, influence health care. However, can someone who is not an MD or a PhD biomedical scientist understand this article? Our purpose will be to "translate" four sentences as a sampler from the report.

The Opening Sentence

Article: The body of the article opens with this sentence: "Despite recent decreases in the rates of death from cardiovascular disease, mortality after discharge from the hospital remains high among survivors of acute myocardial infarction who have substantial left ventricular dysfunction."

Translation: When they leave the hospital after a heart attack that has impaired the function of the left ventricle of their heart, people still face a high risk of death from heart disease.

The Design of the Trial

Article The Methods section of the abstract of the article begins: "We conducted a randomized, controlled trial to test the hypothesis that electrophysiologically guided antiarrhythmic therapy would reduce the risk of sudden death among patients with coronary artery disease, a left ventricular ejection fraction of 40 percent or less, and asymptomatic, unsustained ventricular tachycardia."

Translation: To test the idea that an implantable defibrillator (which shocks a quivering heart back into a normal rhythm) might prevent sudden death among people who have survived a bad heart attack, we did a trial comparing the device with standard drug treatment.