Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is generally described as a rare, unexpected death resulting from sudden cardiac arrest. The causes of SCD are diverse and can range from heart defects that are present at birth to the heart and body reacting to viral infections.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is generally described as a rare, unexpected death resulting from sudden cardiac arrest. The causes of SCD are diverse and can range from heart defects that are present at birth to the heart and body reacting to viral infections.

One of the more common causes of SCD is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease where the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, and, in some cases can cause obstruction of blood flow or dangerous, life threatening heart rhythm problems or arrhythmias. There are several other causes of SCD including abnormalities in the origins of the coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle with blood flow. Other causes of SCD include long QT syndrome, another genetic condition which may cause life threatening arrhythmias. As you can see, the causes of SCD are very diverse, but typically these conditions are rare.

Screening for SCD is a very important, sometimes controversial, topic. The American Heart Association recommends a pre-participation physical examination that includes important questions regarding the student athlete's own medical history and symptoms, the family history and a physical examination. Mass screening tests such as EKG or echocardiogram tests are not advocated by the American Heart Association.

Finally, another very important issue related to SCD is Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and CPR training. An AED is a simple-to-use machine that can figure out if a patient is having a dangerous heart rhythm problem and provide an electric "shock" to return the rhythm back to a normal heart rhythm. It is Ohio law that Ohio schools should have an AED on site at every school. The combination of an AED with prompt and well performed CPR can truly be life saving.

So, what can you do? Your child's primary care provider should perform a thorough patient history, family history and physical examination for a pre-participation sports evaluation. Also, if your child is participating in sports, check with their school about the availability and location of AEDs. AEDs should be readily available and close to the athletic facilities. Finally, CPR training for teachers, parents and even high school students can help prevent sudden cardiac death.

Kerry

Rosen