Story by: Sara Sidery on January 18, 2022
You occasionally hear about it on the news: A seemingly healthy child suddenly collapses or dies after cardiac arrest on the football field or basketball court, or during another sporting event. But any teenager can have a heart attack, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends screening all children, not just those involved in sports, during pediatrician visits.
Initial screening doesn’t involve any special tests. The focus is on a physical exam, family health history and any previous episodes the child has experienced such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
“If a child is not involved in athletics, they may not have to undergo an annual sports physical, but they still should be screened at least every few years,” said Delwyn E. McOmber, M.D., pediatric cardiologist with Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.
According to Dr. McOmber, who is medical director of the exercise stress lab,
the AAP recommends screening all children and teens for risks for sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death at the following intervals:
Risk assessment starts with a physical examination, plus a thorough patient history and family health history. If a concern or risk factor is identified, an electrocardiogram (ECG) is often the first test performed.
If your child needs advanced care, Norton Children’s Heart Institute specialists have offices across Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Call (502) 629-2929
Part of the routine screening for a child or teenager’s risk of heart attack involves four main questions:
“Many children with congenital heart disease are not at increased risk for having a heart attack. Even if they do have an increased risk due to their diagnosis, many can still safely participate in exercise with appropriate restrictions and monitoring,” Dr. McOmber said. “Screening them before they have an issue allows us to monitor their condition, plan follow-ups and help prevent a serious condition.”