HeartRhythm: New study elucidates pediatric sudden cardiac arrest burden

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New findings shed light on the burden of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) among children and suggest additional research may lead to better prediction and prevention of sudden death, according to a study published in the November edition of Heart Rhythm Journal.

The study examined every SCA occurrence in Multnomah County, Ore., (population 660,486; 2002-2005) to determine multiple health variables at the time of SCA. As part of the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study ongoing since 2002, researchers partnered with emergency and health professionals—including paramedics, police, medical examiners and 16 area hospitals—to collect vital patient data, including blood samples and DNA.

During the three-year period, 33 children met the criteria for SCA in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area.

Although pediatric sudden death accounted for only 2.8 percent of all reported SCA events, the survival rate was zero for children compared to 8 percent for adults, according to the researchers. Among all pediatric SCA deaths, 76 percent of victims were fewer than 12 months old and the vast majority (90 percent) were diagnosed with sudden infant death syndrome or crib death.

The study also provided a current burden of this syndrome in the community—approximately one child per 1,000 live births.

The findings suggest population education and additional research with a particular focus on sudden infant death syndrome may reduce death rates for SCA among children.

“Because earlier research has relied only on death certificates for SCA data, there has been a gap in the medical literature on SCA in children, which is a relatively uncommon but devastating problem,” said lead author Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, director of clinical electrophysiology and associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

“We have learned that education and research on the sudden infant death syndrome is likely to make the biggest impact on preventing sudden death in children,” he said.

Chugh said that the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study will continue to collect community-wide information on pediatric SCA, but additional communities could add to the effort by making available a larger pool of medical data. “Better understanding of pediatric SCA is needed and will lead to better prevention of SCA death among children,” the authors wrote.