All kids should be screened for heart-related issues, pediatric group says

CHARLESTON, W.Va (WSAZ) – Three years ago, Kristy and Ryan Ray lost their 8-year-old son Caleb. He died suddenly after soccer practice when he went into cardiac arrest while kicking the ball with his friends.

“You think of concussion or broken bones. You never think that there is something wrong with my child’s heart, especially when it is active.

He was so active,” says Kristy Ray, Caleb’s mother.

Until now, screening for heart disease in children has mainly focused on athletes.

In a statement published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics now calls for all children to be screened for conditions that could lead to cardiac arrest or death.

The AAP said those screenings should be part of a child’s regular exam and called on doctors to delve into personal and family medical history.

dr. Christy Robinson, a pediatrician at Capital City Pediatrics, is working closely with her team to implement screening in children’s checkups.

“It will be a series of screening questions. A combination of three: personal history, family history and also a detailed physical exam,” said Dr. Christy Robinson.

Some questions to ask are: Has the child ever had shortness of breath or chest pain associated with exercise? Sudden fainting?

“If we have one of those red flags, we’ll start doing some testing, and usually that’s going to be an EKG,” said Dr. Robinson.

The statement also lists terms and conditions that GPs should be aware of that could put young patients at risk as these screenings could save a life.

The Rays believe this is an overwhelming result that the two did not expect.

“We needed the pediatric community to support it. For us, it’s another step toward saving more children and preventing parents from going through what we’ve been through every day,” said Kristy Ray.

The AAP said it is important for pediatricians to advocate for emergency action plans and CPR training in communities and that no screening strategy will detect all conditions associated with sudden cardiac arrest.

The Rays founded the Live Like Caleb Foundation, which provides CPR/AED training AED units to youth organizations.

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