Did Loud Music Kill British Teen?

British teen's death sparks inquiry.

ByABC News
December 15, 2009, 3:15 PM

Dec. 16, 2009— -- 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.