SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST
Detection and rapid response can save students’ lives.
The occasional news of a young athlete’s sudden death from cardiac arrest is always shocking. How do parents recognize heart problems & act to prevent a tragedy?
The condition, risks and treatment
In sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the heart suddenly stops beating. Death can occur within minutes if not treated. SCA is usually caused by a failure in either the heart’s electrical or structural systems & involves a blockage or abnormalities in rhythm or electrical pathways. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart’s structural system, is the number one cause of SCA.
Treatment can include medication, lifestyle change or even the use of a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator or other surgery, depending on the specific condition.
Dr. Shipon notes that the best prevention is a detailed history and physical along with an electrocardiogram (EKG). However, health organizations and insurance companies have not yet endorsed the use of EKG without a medical reason.
If the doctor finds something abnormal, an echocardiogram can be considered. “One in 100 kids could have an abnormality that needs follow-up treatment,” says Dr. Shipon.
According to a recent study, 2.5 athletes out of 100,000 will suddenly die on the playing field. Everyone needs to act quickly if a child has symptoms. In the event of sudden cardiac arrest, rapid treatment with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can prevent death.
Defibrillator and CPR training
The National Association for Sport & Physical Education strongly supports the access, training and presence of defibrillators during all school-sanctioned athletic activities, wide availability of AEDs and annual training and certification in CPR & AED use.
Advocates say school emergency plans should include immediate access and use of a defibrillator. They call for CPR and AED training for teachers, custodial staff & parents involved in volunteer school activities. New state laws now require coaches to receive CPR training, including SCA education.
Mary Ann Muller is a MetroKids intern and graduate student at Rosemont College.