Guidance from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center doctor could save the lives of children nationwide

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) – According to a press release from the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, one of the doctors was the lead author of a paper that provides national guidelines “for pediatricians to help detect risks in children and teens from sudden arrest or death.”

Christopher Erickson, MD, FAAP, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s, helped write “Sudden Death in the Young: Information for the Primary Care Provider,” which was published this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Under the new guideline, all children would be screened when they enter middle or high school.

“In the past, we tended to focus on athletes when parents brought their children and teens in for a physical sports or pre-participation exam,” Erickson said. “We know today that all children and teens benefit from a simple screening to help identify any potential problem that warrants follow-up with a heart specialist.”

In the United States, about 2,000 people under the age of 25 die each year from sudden cardiac events.

The guidance contains four questions and acts as an update to the 2012 recommendations.

You can read the full release from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center below:

Experts at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center are at the forefront of pediatrics nationwide, advocating that all children be screened for potential heart-related problems by primary care providers. This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced new national guidelines for pediatricians to help detect risks in children and teens to prevent sudden cardiac arrest or death. Christopher Erickson, MD, FAAP, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s, was the lead author of the article “Sudden Death in the Young: Information for the Primary Care Provider,” published in the July 2021 edition of AAP’s journal Pediatrics. Department of Pediatrics, Kody Moffatt, MD, MS, FAAP, also contributed to the study and recommendations.

The new guideline calls for all children to be screened for conditions that could lead to cardiac arrest or death, regardless of their athletic status and especially if they are entering high school or entering high school. In a policy statement, AAP describes the screening — which consists of four questions — and provides new information to help pediatricians identify children at risk for heart-related problems as an update to its 2012 recommendations.

“In the past, we tended to focus on athletes when parents brought their children and teens in for a physical sports or pre-participation exam,” says Christopher Erickson, MD, FAAP, lead author of the statement and a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s. “We know today that all children and teens benefit from a simple screening to help identify any potential problem that warrants follow-up with a heart specialist.”

The policy statement was developed by the AAP Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery and the Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society (PACES) Task Force on Prevention of Sudden Death in the Young.

About 2,000 people under the age of 25 die of sudden cardiac death each year in the United States, excluding sudden infant death. Although autopsy studies show that most patients had structural heart defects, the causes of six to 40 percent of deaths remain unexplained.

The updated statement contains a comprehensive overview of conditions that should require more attention and cardiac evaluation. It discusses four screening questions recommended not only for athletes, but for all children.

“Ideally, this screening should be included in a child’s regular exam at least every two to three years,” says Jack C. Salerno, MD, an author of the statement. “The pediatrician is in an ideal position to monitor a child’s development into the teens and is aware of family history which can raise a red flag for potential heart-related problems.”

The AAP recommends:

Pediatricians and other primary care providers should assess whether a patient’s clinical history, family history, and physical examination indicate a risk of sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death. If there is a problem, an electrocardiogram should be the first test administered, and it should be interpreted by a physician trained to recognize electrical heart disease. The physician should consider a patient’s clinical history and consider referral to a specialist. Pediatricians should advocate for emergency action plans and CPR training within the community. The use of automated external defibrillators is also effective in sudden cardiac arrest. The screening itself consists of four questions that ask if a child or teen has ever fainted, had an unexplained seizure, or had chest pain or shortness of breath, as well as if family members have a history of heart disease or death before age 50.
“No screening strategy will detect every potential heart problem, which is why it’s important that we increase awareness and education, not only in pediatric offices, but also within the community,” said Dr. erickson. “We encourage parents and pediatricians to be alert to any signs or family history.”

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