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Prevention and Treatment of Cardiac Arrest in Children with Heart Disease

CardioSmart News

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.

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