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Understanding Pediatric Sudden Cardiac Arrest


It is important to know and recognize the warning signs of pediatric sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which if not treated in minutes, can result in cardiac death. In a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "Pediatric Sudden Cardiac Arrest​," in the April 2012 Pediatrics (published online on March 26), the AAP provides guidance to pediatricians on underlying cardiac conditions that may predispose youth to SCA. Symptoms in patients with structural/functional or electrical disorders are common before SCA, and can include dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, and/or seizure. Although SCA can occur at very young ages and at rest, athletic participation increases the risk for those with underlying cardiac disorders. It is estimated that as many as 2,000 young adults under the age of 25 will die of SCA each year, though the actual number is not totally clear. 

This also points to the need for a SCA registry in order to gain a better understanding of some of the nuances with regard to SCA. However, because many cardiac disorders are known to be genetic, the evaluation of family members, even if asymptomatic, is a critical step in the overall diagnosis of disorders predisposing to pediatric and young adult SCA. This policy has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the Heart Rhythm Society.​


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit