Cardiac Arrest: Screening kids for heart problems can save lives down the road, doctors say

INDIANAPOLIS - The American Academy of Pediatrics is warning parents about the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in children.

Pediatric sudden cardiac arrest kills nearly 2,000 people under the age of 25 every year, according to the AAP.

Dr. Randall Caldwell, director of pediatric cardiology at Riley Hospital for Children, said that screening children for heart problems early on can save lives down the road.

"If you take a look at those 2,000 patients (who died), about 56 percent are going to be related to a death from some cardiovascular problems," he said. "That's why we want to make sure we screen those children and take care of those type of problems."

Caldwell said Riley treats about 30 new children each week complaining of chest pain, but only about 3 to 5 percent of them are found to have a heart issue.

Still, he said it is important that parents know about heart issues in their families and get children screened for heart health when they begin playing sports or when they reach second or third grade.

Exercise increases the risk for sudden cardiac arrest, as well as extremes in hot and cold temperatures.

"The number one problem is called hypertrophic obstructive cardio myopathy, where the heart muscle is very muscle bound or thickened," he said. "That happens in about one of every 500 individuals, so that's the problem we make sure we want to screen for."


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