The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidance encouraging all children to be screened for heart conditions. In the past, this type of screening has typically been reserved for sports physicals.
Dr. Jason Garnreiter, a pediatric electrophysiologist at Rocky Mountain Pediatric Cardiology, said the hope is that making this part of the standard well-child visit will uncover some potentially deadly heart conditions.
“Any child could be at risk for these conditions and limiting our screening to only those who are coming in for sports participation is going to miss those kids,” Garnreiter said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 2,000 people under the age of 25 in the United States die every year from a sudden cardiac event. The cause may be a structural heart defect, or a rhythm disorder, but many of these conditions present warning signs.
Pediatricians are being encouraged to ask four questions during a well-child visit:
- If a child has ever fainted
- If they’ve had an unexplained seizure
- If they’ve had shortness of breath or chest pain
- If there’s a family history of cardiac conditions before age 50
“A number of these conditions, when you go back and look after an event, there may have been some warning signs that were not fully recognized beforehand,” Garnreiter said.
Garnreiter said depending on the outcome of the initial screening, a young patient may be referred to a pediatric cardiologist for further evaluation. Some heart conditions may be treatable, while others may require significant life changes. He said it’s important for families to have those discussions with their doctors.