Facts about Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Youth
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is indiscriminate as to age, race or gender. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading medical cause of death in children and adolescents in the United States.¹
The true prevalence of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) in youth is unknown due to the lack of a mandatory and systematic national registry. Parent Heart Watch strongly advocates for the establishment of such a registry to provide more accurate data that will motivate new research and strategies that will lead to SCA and SCD prevention.
Early detection is crucial.
Youth are not adequately screened for heart conditions. Most youth who suffer SCA have an undetected heart condition. A thorough family history and physical examination that includes an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) as a baseline test can help detect approximately 60% of the heart conditions that can lead to SCA. Approximately 2% of youth that are heart-screened are diagnosed with a heart abnormality or concern; 1% are diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition such as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), Long QT Syndrome (LQTS), Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW) or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD).
Frequently, the warning signs and symptoms of a heart condition in youth go undetected or are misdiagnosed. Those who work and live with youth must be aware of these signs and symptoms. If any exist, they should be reported to the youth's physician immediately. Medical professionals must be more acutely aware of the warning signs & symptoms of a heart condition, utilize the Pre-participation Physical Evaluation Form, utilize the Pediatric Sudden Cardiac Death Assessment Form, and, when symptomatic, immediately refer youth to a cardiologist for further evaluation.
If a child is diagnosed with a heart condition, there are many precautionary steps that can be taken to prevent the likely outcome of SCA including lifestyle modifications, medication, surgical treatments, and implanting a pacemaker and/or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
Being Prepared Can Save a Young Life.
Most occurrences of SCA in youth occur in public places. The increased availability of publicly accessible automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools and school-sponsored athletic events will dramatically increase the probability that youth will survive SCA. Knowing and properly executing the critically time-urgent links of the Cardiac Chain-of-Survival can help save the life of a youth in SCA.
A sudden blow to the chest when the heart is electrically recharging (between heartbeats) can trigger SCA. The injury is called Commotio Cordis, Latin for “commotion or disturbance of the heart.” Chest protectors do not protect youth from SCA while playing sports and thus create a false sense of security. Chest protectors are designed primarily to protect a child from soft tissue damage and bone injury on impact, not as protection from the potentially fatal heart rhythm that can also occur as a result. Defibrillation (use of AED) is the only effective treatment for a youth struck by Commotio Cordis.
¹ Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Vital Statistics Report for 2005, published April 2008, Volume 56, Number 10