Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children

Identifying children at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is vital to prevent the death of a child and a tragedy for a family. Causes include structural and functional abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, coronary abnormalities and electrical abnormalities are causes for SCA.

Warning signs associated with SCA include fainting or syncope with exercise, chest pain with exercise, shortness of breath not associated with asthma in response to exercise, a family history of sudden cardiac arrest in someone younger than 50 years of age or having a family member who is affected with a condition that can cause sudden cardiac arrest.

It is very important you talk to family members to learn about your family history.

Many parents are not aware of their family history of SCA. You must ask and investigate any history of a relative who died from a sudden cardiac problem and discuss this information with your pediatrician. Obtaining a comprehensive and accurate family history and pedigree can help prevent a death due to an inherited cardiac genetic disorder.

Consider encouraging your child’s school to have an emergency response plan that includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator (AED) use. With this preparation survival rates increase from 10% to 64%. Symptoms, as discussed above, are present in fewer than 50% of all children who have a SCA. Options to improve outcome for these children include obtaining an electrocardiogram (EKG) for all children involved in athletics. This type of testing can identify 70-90% of all children at risk. Remember to support education programs for effective bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and appropriate AED use. Such intervention can save the life of your child.