New Recommendations for Preventing Cardiac Death in Youth

Athletes and nonathletes should receive 14 point exam before ECG testing, according to recommendations

(RxWiki News) Sudden death from heart problems among young people is a rare but tragic health issue. But new health recommendations may help prevent such events.

Two heart health groups released a statement on how to best prevent sudden death from heart disease among young people. The statement included recommendations for screening young people from ages 12 to 25 for heart defects.

They recommended further testing with more advanced technology only for people with a raised risk of heart disease.

"Ask your cardiologist about getting screened for heart disease."

Experts from several heart health groups, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, formed the committee that released the statement.

According to the authors, sudden heart problems among youth are rare and sometimes preventable. Sudden deaths among young athletes have been a major focus among the medical community, the statement said.

Some experts have suggested screening all athletes using 12-lead ECG, a test that can detect heart disease. ECG, or electrocardiography, helps doctors observe electric activity in the heart.

However, the group did not suggest mandatory ECG screening of young athletes or nonathletes.

Universal screening has not been proven to reduce deaths, the statement said. Some young people may even receive false positives (diagnoses when they do not actually have heart problems).

The authors wrote that ECGs should be used for young people who have a higher risk of heart problems, such as those with known heart defects or a family history of heart disease.

The statement also recommended that doctors use a 14-point screening as part of a full physical exam to find heart problems.

The screening would include a physical exam and questions about the patient's personal and family history. The physical exam would include heart murmur and blood pressure tests.

The statement also said that defibrillators in public places and sporting arenas could help save lives in the event of sudden heart attacks.

Defibrillators, which use electric shocks to restart the heartbeat, "are effective in saving young lives on the athletic field and elsewhere," the authors wrote.

The statement was published Sept. 15 in Circulation.

The authors disclosed no funding sources. Each of the authors worked for a medical organization. Some received consulting work or research support from health or pharmaceutical companies.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2014