what is sudden cardiac arrest (sca)?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who may seem to be healthy, even children and teens. When SCA happens, the person collapses and doesn’t respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure. SCA leads to death in minutes if the person does not get help right away. Survival depends on people nearby calling 911, starting CPR, and using an AED (if available) as soon as p

What is an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)?

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. It's a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

Most occurrences of SCA in youth occur in public places. The increased availability of AED's in schools and youth athletic events will dramatically increase the probability that youth will survive SCA. Just having an AED, is not enough. They must be publicly accessible and maintained properly and YOU must be ready to act. The only way to restore a regular heart rhythm during cardiac arrest is to use an AED. 

Because the average response time for first responders once 911 is called is 8-12 minutes, and for each minute defibrillation is delayed, the odds of survival are reduced by approximately 10%, having access to an AED and knowing how to use one, is critical.

What is an electrocardiogram (ECG) heart screening?

An ECG is a simple, painless, noninvasive test that measures and records the electrical activity of the heart. With each heartbeat, the heart’s natural pacemaker sends an electrical impulse that travels along a nerve pathway and stimulates the heart muscles to contract, pumping blood through the heart’s chambers and into the blood vessels. When the heart muscles relax, the heart refills with blood and the process starts again. The ECG records this activity on graph paper via wires that are connected to electrode patches with slightly sticky backings and placed on the chest, arms, and legs. The heart’s activity is recorded in up and down patterns labeled consecutively as P waves, QRS complexes, T waves and U waves. Irregularities in the patterns may indicate a problem with the heart.

should my child have their heart screened?

While the prevailing perception is that heart disease is primarily an adult disease, there are thousands of seemingly healthy youth who suddenly and unexpectedly suffer fatal or severely debilitating consequences due to undetected heart conditions. Youth are not adequately screened for heart conditions. In fact, the standard approach to patient health history and physical examinations misses about 90% of youth at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Because most heart conditions that can lead to SCA are not detectable with a stethoscope, a simple ECG along with a comprehensive review of personal and family heart history and the proper assessment and follow-up of warning signs and symptoms are the best tools for primary prevention. 

As children grow their hearts change and repeat evaluations are recommended through age 25. A simple heart screening can help detect problems before they become major medical issues. 

While we recommend all children get an ECG, you should definitely have your child screened if they: 

• compete in high impact sports that increases your heart rate for an extended period 

• have a family history indicating that there is a heart disease risk

• get dizziness during athletics

• experience fainting spells or weakness while participating

• get shortness of breath that does not clear quickly 

• get chest pain while participating

Awareness is key to helping us in this fight to prevent Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) in the young. To learn more about SCD prevention in youth, check out some of the links below!!

http://www.parentheartwatch.org The National voice for preventing SCD in the young 

http://www.whoweplayfor.org Heart Screenings in Florida

https://www.screenacrossamerica.org Heart Screenings Nationwide