By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends clinicians screen all children, not just young athletes presenting for sports exams, for heart-related problems. This screening should be incorporated into regular visits, at least every two to three years.

In an expansive policy statement published this week, AAP recommends taking a detailed family history from young patients to probe for signs of sudden cardiac death or sudden cardiac arrest. To help, AAP offers four specific questions clinicians can ask. These include queries about whether the child has ever experienced chest pain after exercise or if he or she is related to anyone who died suddenly from a heart-related issue before age 50 years.

“We tended to focus on athletes in the past when parents brought their children and teens in for a sports physical or preparticipation exam,” said Christopher C. Erickson, MD, FAAP, lead author of the statement. “We know today that all children and teens benefit from a simple screening to help identify any potential problem that warrants follow-up with a cardiac specialist.”

If this screening raises red flags, then AAP recommends clinicians order an ECG, which should be interpreted by an expert. The organization also calls for raising awareness of CPR and automatic external defibrillator training, which can help ordinary citizens in the community act quickly in an emergency.

“No single screening strategy will detect every possible heart issue, and so it’s important that we raise awareness and education not only in pediatric offices but within the community,” Erickson said. “We encourage parents and pediatricians to be alert for any concerning signs or family history.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports.