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Am Heart J. 2011 May;161(5):1000-1006.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2011.01.022. Epub 2011 Mar 12.

A pilot study of the feasibility of heart screening for sudden cardiac arrest in healthy children.

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Division of Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, USA.



In children, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is associated with structural and electrical cardiac abnormalities. No studies have systematically screened healthy school children in the United States for conditions leading to SCA to identify those at risk.


From June 2006 to June 2007, we screened 400 healthy 5- to 19-year-olds (11.8 ± 3.9 years) in clinical offices at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia using a medical and family history questionnaire, weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac examination, electrocardiogram (ECG), and echocardiogram (ECHO). Our goals were to determine the feasibility of adding an ECG to history and physical examination and to identify a methodology to be used in a larger multicenter study. A secondary objective was to compare identification of cardiovascular abnormalities by history and physical examination, ECG, and ECHO.


Previously undiagnosed cardiac abnormalities were found in 23 subjects (5.8%); an additional 20 (5%) had hypertension. Potentially serious cardiac conditions were identified in 10 subjects (2.5%); 7 were suspected or identified by ECG and 3 more only by ECHO. Only 1 of the 10 had symptoms (previously dismissed); none had a positive family history.


It is feasible to screen for conditions associated with SCA in healthy children by adding ECG to history and physical examination. In this nongeneralizable sample, ECG identified more cases compared to history and physical examination alone, with further augmentation from ECHOs. Improvements in ECG and echocardiographic normative standards, representing age, gender, race, and ethnicity, are needed to increase the efficacy of screening in a young population.

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