Did Loud Music Kill British Teen?

British teenager Tom Reid visited a nightclub the day after enrolling in college. It seems the loud music he heard there may have killed him.

According to reports in the British press, Reid died at a London nightclub after complaining that the bass was affecting his heart rate. While definite answers have been hard to come by, an underlying condition may have played a role in his death.

While details remain unclear, experts in the United States say that given the circumstances, the death matches the profile of someone with a rare genetic disorder known as long QT syndrome, although they cannot say for sure.

"Any time someone in a setting of excitement has a sudden cardiac arrest, especially at a young age with a seemingly normal heart, you have to consider [an inherited condition] such as long QT," said Dr. Richard Page, chair of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and president of the Heart Rhythm Society. "One of the genetic variants is especially predisposed to having an arrhythmia when exposed to loud sound."

While loud sounds have been known to set off irregular heartbeats in patients with long QT syndrome, it is unclear whether the thumping bass, in particular, had any effect.

"I don't think the bass is the problem per se, just the loud noise," said Dr. Anne B. Curtis, chief of cardiovascular disease at the University of South Florida.

Reid's family could not be reached by ABCNews.com for comment.

But while the genetic disorder is rare, many have been affected by long QT syndrome.

"My story is one of thousands," Mary Jo Gordon, executive director of the Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) Foundation, Inc. told ABCNews.com.

Gordon became involved in research and advocacy for heart conditions after her sister suffered cardiac arrest at the age of 17, in 1979. While Gordon's sister survived, she requires round-the-clock care today because of the brain damage that resulted.

A Silent Disease, Triggered by Noise

Gordon has since worked as a medic and in the medical devices industry. But it was years after her sisters attack before she learned she, too, had long QT.

"I didn't find out until 1993," she said, explaining that, as one of eight siblings, they all were tested. "Of the eight of us, five of us have the disorder."

Gordon said another sister had cardiac arrest at the age of 22, while a nephew has had cardiac arrest twice. Typically, she said, it is a result of symptoms or a family member when the disorder will be discovered.

Fortunately, however, testing can be done, in the form of an ECG or EKG, which will detect the vast majority of cases, and through medication, a pacemaker or a defibrillator, "If they find it, it's treatable," said Gordon.

Long QT syndrome derives its name from the fact that on a heart monitor, the phase of the heartbeat between points known as Q and T would be lengthened.

It comes in a few variants, and they can be triggered by a variety of conditions.

In some cases it can be caused by exercise, and in other variants, being in the water seems to cause it.

"My sister's cardiac arrest was caused by a minor car accident," said Gordon, explaining that a sudden startling event can play a role.

In her nephew's case, the cardiac arrest was triggered by an alarm clock, and in one family she spoke with recently, a 6-year-old patient suffered cardiac arrest because of a security alarm.

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