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Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Adolescents- Keeping Parents Aware

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart unexpectedly and abruptly fails to function, causing loss of consciousness or even a collapse. SCA can be life-threatening and should be treated with urgency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 2,000 individuals under the age of 25 years old die each year due to SCA. The deaths of these seemingly healthy and young people leave behind devastating impacts on thousands of families and friends. Loved ones are often left wondering, “is there any way this could have been prevented?” although there is no sure way to know, there are warning signs to look out for and ways to remain proactive. 

Warning Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

There does not need to be an apparent medical reason or injury for SCA to occur. Some warning signs that tend to be overlooked include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue

In other cases, no symptoms presented themselves until the Sudden Cardiac Arrest event occurred. While SCA is a leading cause of death for young athletes, it can happen to adolescents and young adults who are not involved in sports.

How can SCA be Prevented? 

Parents, families, and children can take steps in the right direction to prevent or lower their risk of SCA as much as possible. Proactive measures that can and should be taken include: 

  • Get to know your family history. For parents with children under the age of 18, gather your child’s medical family heart health history. Blood relatives, including grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, should all be considered when understanding a family’s heart health history.
  • Routine doctor’s visits. All children should be receiving routine health checks at their pediatrician’s. These visits aid in catching alarming risk factors for potential heart issues and other health problems. Screenings should not only be done for young athletes, but children not involved in sports can also benefit from these check-ups.
  • CPR training. Yes, students can also obtain CPR training! Parents, children, and school staff are encouraged to undergo CPR training to act accordingly in the event of an emergency. Schools should also carry Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) as an added benefit for cases of sudden cardiac arrest.

Causes of SCA

While not every cause of SCA in adolescents is known, it is essential to be familiar with potential causes. 

  • Abnormalities in the Coronary Artery: The coronary arteries connect to the heart. If there is a defect with these arteries, they can cause a decreased blood supply to the heart when exercising. This abnormality is usually present during birth, but people do not usually find out until they are older.
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is adolescents’ most common cause of SCA. An abnormal heart rhythm is caused by the thickening of the heart’s lower chambers, known as ventricles.
  • Myocarditis: Myocarditis is typically triggered by an infection, which means that the heart’s walls are inflamed.
  • Commotio Cordis: Very common in sports, this occurs when a blow to the chest directly over the heart happens. 
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD): An inherited condition causing the heart’s tissue to be replaced by scar tissue. 
  • Primary Arrhythmias: Often caused by genetic conditions that have gone diagnosed, the primary arrhythmias affect electrical impulses to the heart. These genetic conditions may include:
    • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome: The heart begins to pump very fast due to a detour in the heart’s electrical pathway.
    • Long QT Syndrome: A fast heart rhythm condition.

At SuraMed Health Center, we are proud to aid in building a healthy community of children. If you have questions about your child’s health or seek a preventative screening for heart health, do not hesitate to contact us today. 

Visit our website for more information.

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