CHOC Leading the Way in Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children

The sudden death of a child and/or athlete is a tragic yet rare occurrence that causes significant concern in both the general public and medical community.  Strategies to prevent these catastrophes have become a prominent public health debate. To address this critical topic affecting our young athletes, a symposium on the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in children and adolescents is being planned at Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa in Anaheim for January 14-15, 2011.

We spoke to Dr. Anjan Batra, medical director of electrophysiology at the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, about the importance of this event:

Q: What will be presented at the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Symposium?
A: Topics will include clinical syndromes associated with the risk of sudden death, arrhythmias in the young, use of automated external and implantable defibrillators in children, and screening, with an emphasis on defining levels of evidence and areas of controversy in management decisions. It will be open to pediatricians, pediatric cardiologists, electrophysiologists and affiliated professionals involved and interested in the care of young people, including the general public.

Q: What message do you have for Orange County families about this topic?
A:  Orange County has an estimated population of just over 3 million, making it the second most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County. It is also the county with the highest per capita of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Olympic athletes.  This may be one of the reasons for what appears to be a heightened awareness for the prevention of sudden cardiac death in young athletes in Orange County.

Q: What warning signs should parents look for that suggest their young athlete may have a heart problem?
A:  Certain symptoms can suggest that your child or teen has a heart problem that needs a doctor’s attention. This is especially true if symptoms occur during sports or other activities. It’s important to ask if your child has:
* Been dizzy or light-headed?
* Passed out, or nearly passed out?
* Had chest pain or pressure?
* Felt like his heart was racing or skipping beats?

Talk with your doctor if your child experiences any of these symptoms, which may put your child at risk. Keep in mind that these signs do not necessarily mean that your child has a heart problem. For example, a child who faints during sports may have low blood sugar or other temporary problems. A doctor can help find the cause.