A database has been launched to record cases of sudden cardiac death, so doctors can better understand when and why it occurs.

The database was developed by pathologists and cardiologists, but funded by the Department of Health. It will allow pathologists to record cases referred to them by coroners.

Professor Roger Boyle, national director for heart disease and stroke, said it should provide “invaluable information” about the “causes, incidence and prevalence of sudden cardiac death.”

He also claimed it would not only improve understanding of inherited cardiovascular disease, but save lives by helping the families of young victims to reduce their own risk.

Sudden cardiac death happens unexpectedly in apparently fit and healthy people. In older and middle-aged people, the most common cause is coronary artery disease. In people under the age of 35, the most common cause is an inheritable heart condition.

The database responds to a recommendation in the coronary heart disease national service framework, and cost £35,000 to establish. The UK Cardiac Pathology Steering Group will encourage pathologists to use it.

The network was established recently to provide coroners with an expert cardiac pathology service and promote best practice in sudden death cases and its co-chair, Patrick Gallagher, welcomed the latest development.