MONDAY, June 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) — All children should be screened for conditions that could cause them cardiac arrest or death, recommends a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The screening should be done whether or not kids play sports, and it’s especially important if they start middle school or high school, the statement said.
It updates the 2012 guidelines and was published online June 21 in the journal Pediatrics.
“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,” said Dr. Christopher Erickson, lead author of the revised statement. “We know today that all children and teens benefit from simple screening to help identify any potential problem that warrants follow-up with a heart specialist.”
Every year in the US, about 2,000 people under the age of 25 suffer sudden cardiac death. Many had structural heart defects, research shows, but the causes of up to 40% of such deaths are unexplained.
The policy statement recommends that doctors ask if a child has ever fainted, had an unexplained seizure, or experienced chest pain or shortness of breath. Doctors are also urged to ask if family members have a history of heart disease or death before age 50.
“Ideally, this screening should be included in a child’s regular exam at least every two to three years,” said study co-author Dr. Jack Salerno. “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 that pediatricians and other primary care providers evaluate whether a child’s personal or family history and physical exam suggest a risk of sudden cardiac arrest or death.
If you’re concerned, an electrocardiogram should be the first test and should be interpreted by a doctor trained to recognize electrical heart disease. The physician should consider a patient’s clinical history and consider referral to a specialist, the statement recommends.
“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,” Erickson said. “We encourage parents and pediatricians to be alert to any signs or family history.”
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has more about sudden cardiac arrest.
SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, press release, June 21, 2021