News & Events

Added to My Toolbox
Removed from My Toolbox
Added to My Toolbox
Removed from My Toolbox
May 16, 2018

Prevention and Treatment of Cardiac Arrest in Children with Heart Disease

The American Heart Association issues a statement addressing the importance of preventing cardiac arrest in infants and children with congenital heart defects.

While CPR can be lifesaving for children suffering sudden cardiac arrest, preventing heart events is a key goal when caring for children with congenital heart disease, according to a recent statement from the American Heart Association.

Published in the medical journal Circulation, this statement addressed the prevention and treatment of cardiac arrest in infants and children with congenital heart disease. Its purpose was to provide recommendations for caregivers of children with heart disease both inside and outside of the hospital.

Congenital heart disease is an umbrella term for different heart conditions that are present at birth. It affects roughly 1% of all births in the United States.

While most children with congenital heart disease go on to live long and healthy lives, they face increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. When that happens, CPR is usually lifesaving and drastically increases chances of survival.

However, CPR is not as effective in infants and children with heart disease as it is in healthy individuals.

In their recent statement, experts explain that CPR is inefficient, at best, for children with heart disease. While CPR can help restore heart rhythm, its usefulness depends on each patient’s unique heart conditions. Authors note that in infants and children with heart disease, CPR with compressions restores only 30% of blood flow to the heart and up to 40% of blood flow to the brain after sudden cardiac arrest.

Use of life support, often referred to as ECPR (extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation), has been shown to improve survival when other treatment fails. However, life support is generally used when the causes of cardiac arrest could be reversible, like through surgery.

As a result, experts emphasize the importance of preventing cardiac arrest through close monitoring and treatment. For most, that means keeping a close eye on patients’ health and addressing any issues immediately to prevent life-threatening heart events. For others, it could mean anticipating heart events before they occur and acting to prevent them.

Authors hope their recent statement provides clear guidance for caregivers of infants and children with heart disease. They also encourage future research on the issue in hopes of improving both the prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac arrest in this high-risk population.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are congenital heart defects?
  • “Congenital” means present from birth. So, congenital heart defects refers to a number of different conditions that can occur when a baby’s heart is forming or at birth. As a result, the heart—or the major vessels in and around the heart—may not develop or work the way they should.

    Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. Roughly 8 of every 1,000 babies are born with some sort of structural defect in their hearts. These problems cause more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Some examples are atrial septal defect, coarctation of the aorta, and aortic stenosis.

    But, there is good news. More babies are surviving than ever before thanks to advances in treating and correcting many of these problems. Although most defects are found during pregnancy by ultrasound or in early childhood, some defects aren’t discovered until adulthood. About 1 million adults are living with congenital heart disease.

  • How common are congenital heart defects?
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting roughly 1% of all births in the United States. Thanks to advancements in treatments, it’s estimated that 1 million adults are now living with a congenital heart defect.

Infographic: Congenital Heart Defects

Related

Robby's Story: Tetralogy of Fallot

Robby Motta was born with Tetralogy of Fallot—four defects within his heart. Eight years later, Robby is an active second-grader.

Deborah Flaherty-Kizer is CardioSmart

Deborah Flaherty-Kizer was born with a heart defect. Instead of allowing her condition to limit her, she regularly challenges herself physically and serves as a mentor to other heart patients.

Jacob Burris is CardioSmart

When he was 12 years old, Jacob Burris was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Today, he is spreading the word about the importance of checking blood pressure and raising awareness about CHDs.

Rudy Wilson Galdonik is CardioSmart

Born with an atrial septal defect, Rudy Wilson Galdonik learned early on that while she couldn't control her physical limitations, she could control how she approached her heart condition. 

Patient Resource