In the mountain environment sudden cardiac death (SCD) has been shown to be responsible for the deaths of up to 52% of downhill skiers and 30% of hikers. The majority of SCD’s are precipitated by a ventricular arrhythmia. Although most are likely to result from structural abnormalities associated with conditions such as ischaemic heart disease, a small but significant number may be due to abnormalities in ion channel activity, commonly known as, “channelopathies”. Channelopathies have the potential to lengthen the time between ventricular depolarisation and repolarisation that can result in prolongation of the corrected QT interval (QTc) and episodes of polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (PVT) and eventually, ventricular fibrillation. This review examines the factors that prolong the QTc interval in the mountain environment and outlines a practical framework for preventing the life threatening arrhythmias that are associated with this condition.
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