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Circulation. 1992 Jan;85(1 Suppl):I64-9.

Sudden cardiac death in the pediatric population.

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Department of Pediatric Cardiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425.


Sudden death in children as in adults is usually due to cardiac disease. Sudden death in the pediatric population may be divided into the sudden infant death syndrome, sudden death in previously apparently healthy children, and sudden death in patients with known cardiac disease. The sudden infant death syndrome is not proved to be due to a cardiac cause and may well be due to central nervous system and/or pulmonary causes. However, interest remains in the cardiac hypothesis. Recent work from our laboratory shows that screening for prolonged QT interval in normal infants is not likely to detect those prone to sudden infant death syndrome. In children with apparently normal hearts, symptoms of syncope or palpitation should be given close attention. Detailed electrocardiography and echocardiography will detect many, but not all, children with subtle forms of heart disease. Vigorous treatment may prevent sudden death in many of these children. Some sort of screening program should be devised for varsity athletes. Children with congenital heart defects are now, for the most part, corrected early in life, so that the congenital heart defect itself rarely causes sudden, unexpected death. The residua and sequelae of the heart defect and the surgery to repair it, however, may lead to sudden death. Improvements in surgical technique and earlier repair of congenital cardiac defects will ameliorate this problem. Prospective evaluation of postoperative patients and attention to dysrhythmias can prevent sudden deaths in those who are prone to them.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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