New Study Identifies Risk of Sudden Death in Children

November 03, 2009

Media Contact

Ken Demith
Heart Rhythm Society

WASHINGTON, DC — New findings shed light on the burden of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) among children and suggest additional research may lead to better prediction and prevention of sudden death, according to a study published in the November edition of the HeartRhythm Journal , the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society. 

The study examined every SCA occurrence in Multnomah County, Ore., (population 660,486; 2002-2005) to determine multiple health variables at the time of SCA. As part of the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study ongoing since 2002, researchers partnered with emergency and health professionals — including paramedics, police, medical examiners and 16 area hospitals —to collect vital patient data, including blood samples and DNA. The first data collection initiative of its kind, the results represent the most comprehensive view of pediatric SCA to date, and are a significant step toward prevention of sudden death at young ages.

During the three-year period, a total of 33 children met the criteria for SCA in the Portland metro area. Although pediatric sudden death accounted for only 2.8 percent of all reported SCA events, the survival rate was zero for children, compared to 8 percent for adults. Among all pediatric SCA deaths, 76 percent of victims were fewer than 12 months old and the vast majority (90 percent) was diagnosed with sudden infant death syndrome or crib death. The study also provided a current burden of this syndrome in the community – approximately one child per 1,000 live births. The findings suggest population education and additional research with a particular focus on sudden infant death syndrome may reduce death rates for SCA among children.

“Because earlier research has relied only on death certificates for SCA data there has been a gap in the medical literature on SCA in children, which is a relatively uncommon but devastating problem,” said lead author Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, FHRS, Director of Clinical Electrophysiology and Associate Director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. “We have learned that education and research on the sudden infant death syndrome is likely to make the biggest impact on preventing sudden death in children.”

Dr. Chugh says the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study will continue to collect community-wide information on pediatric SCA, but additional communities could add to the effort by making available a larger pool of medical data. Better understanding of pediatric SCA is needed and will lead to better prevention of SCA death among children.

About the HeartRhythm Journal

HeartRhythm provides rapid publication of the most important science developments in the field of arrhythmias and cardiovascular electrophysiology (EP). As the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, HeartRhythm publishes both basic and clinical subject matter of scientific excellence devoted to the EP of the heart and blood vessels, as well as therapy. The journal is the only EP publication serving the entire electrophysiology community from basic to clinical academic researchers, private practitioners, technicians, industry and trainees. HeartRhythm has an impact factor of 4.866 (as of 2016) and ranks 23rd out of 114 cardiovascular medicine journals worldwide by the Institute for Scientific Information, remaining the number one specialty journal in cardiology. It is also the official publication of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society.