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Pediatrics. 2012 Feb;129(2):222-30. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1574. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Cardiac screening prior to stimulant treatment of ADHD: a survey of US-based pediatricians.

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  • 1Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.



To determine pediatricians' attitudes, barriers, and practices regarding cardiac screening before initiating treatment with stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


A survey of 1600 randomly selected, practicing US pediatricians with American Academy of Pediatrics membership was conducted. Multivariate models were created for 3 screening practices: (1) performing an in-depth cardiac history and physical (H & P) examination, (2) discussing potential stimulant-related cardiac risks, and (3) ordering an electrocardiogram (ECG).


Of 817 respondents (51%), 525 (64%) met eligibility criteria. Regarding attitudes, pediatricians agreed that both the risk for sudden cardiac death (SCD) (24%) and legal liability (30%) were sufficiently high to warrant cardiac assessment; 75% agreed that physicians were responsible for informing families about SCD risk. When identifying cardiac disorders, few (18%) recognized performing an in-depth cardiac H & P as a barrier; in contrast, 71% recognized interpreting a pediatric ECG as a barrier. When asked about cardiac screening practices before initiating stimulant treatment for a recent patient, 93% completed a routine H & P, 48% completed an in-depth cardiac H & P, and 15% ordered an ECG. Almost half (46%) reported discussing stimulant-related cardiac risks. Multivariate modeling indicated that ≥1 of these screening practices were associated with physicians' attitudes about SCD risk, legal liability, their responsibility to inform about risk, their ability to perform an in-depth cardiac H & P, and family concerns about risk.


Variable pediatrician attitudes and cardiac screening practices reflect the limited evidence base and conflicting guidelines regarding cardiac screening. Barriers to identifying cardiac disorders influence practice.

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