Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening heart condition. As the word suggests, arrest means to stop or pause. During cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating.
Electrical impulses control the heart. When the impulses are interfered with, the heartbeat becomes irregular, leading to a condition known as arrhythmia. Some arrhythmias are slow, while others are faster. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart rhythm stops.
Unfortunately, cardiac arrest occurs in children as it does in grown-ups. This condition can cause disability or death in children. For more information about the causes of pediatric cardiac arrest, continue reading. If your child is experiencing cardiac arrest symptoms, seek emergency health assistance as soon as possible.
Causes Of Pediatric Cardiac Arrest
There are different types of pediatric cardiac arrest, each having causes and risk factors that differ from another. While not all causes of such arrests are known, some include:
- Coronary Artery Abnormalities
Coronary artery abnormalities or coronary artery anomaly (CAA) is a term used to describe defects in the coronary artery. Such abnormalities can be an abnormal size or shape of the heart. CAA is found in children with other heart diseases, in most cases.
While the exact cause of CAA is yet to be known, the fact is that this condition can lead to the development of a fatal heart. Congenital heart diseases strongly linked to CAAs include pulmonary valve atresia, truncus arteriosus, double outlet right ventricle, and others. While some studies show that CAAs can be inherited, enough proof is yet to be found.
Since coronary arteries transport oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle, any abnormality or disease in a coronary can reduce the number of nutrients and oxygen that the heart gets. CAAs can cause myocardial ischemia (a lack of blood to the heart muscle) and sudden cardiac death.
Children who participate in athletic events or tough physical activities might experience sudden cardiac death if they have a CAA. CAAs are the second cause of death in young athletes, with up to 34% of sudden cardiac death in children resulting from CAAs.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is when the heart muscle thickens. This condition makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often goes undiagnosed since most people show few or no symptoms. Due to this, victims lead a normal life with no significant problems.
Nevertheless, some people with HCM can experience shortness of breath, challenges in the heart’s electrical system, or chest pain. This might cause life-threatening heart rhythms or sudden death.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually inherited and the most common cardiovascular cause of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in young people due to its ability to go unnoticed.
The inflammation of the heart muscle characterizes myocarditis. This inflammation reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood, causing irregular or rapid heart rhythms.
A child might develop myocarditis if they’re infected with a particular virus. However, sometimes, this condition can result from a reaction to certain drugs.
Besides inflammation of the heart, myocarditis can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and irregular or rapid heartbeats.
Severe myocarditis weakens the heart, hence, depriving the rest of the body of enough blood. Afterward, clots form in the heart, leading to a stroke or heart attack.
Myocarditis is characterized by chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, fluid buildup or swelling of the legs, or headache.
Cardiac arrhythmias are an inherited cardiac syndrome that can cause cardiac death in children with structurally normal hearts. Arrhythmias can manifest as too quick or slow heartbeats, with irregular patterns. If the child’s heartbeat is too fast, the condition is known as tachycardia, and when it’s too low, it’s known as bradycardia.
However, the most common arrhythmia in children is atrial fibrillation, characterized by an irregular and fast heartbeat.
Symptoms related to this condition include chest pain, fast and slow heartbeat, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and skipping beats that can result in cardiac arrest.
- Marfan Syndrome
Marfan syndrome is an inherited condition affecting connective fibers that anchor and support your organs and other structures in the body. Usually, Marfan syndrome affects the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and the skeleton.
Marfan syndrome can become a life-threatening condition if the large artery that carries the blood from the heart is affected. Children with Marfan syndrome must be on medication to lower their blood pressure and reduce the strain on the aorta.
- Commotio Cordis
Commotio cordis is a condition developed after one hit the chest, triggering an abnormal heart rhythm. The blow might be from an object, like hockey or baseball punk, which might seem non-effective at the moment. Nevertheless, commotio cordis is often fatal.
Mainly, this condition affects male teen athletes, and without proper care and treatment, it can cause unexpected cardiac death.
After receiving a blow, a child with commotio cordis might stumble forward before losing consciousness. It’s important to note that the injury might not show physical damage, and there might be no bruise to indicate the seriousness of the blow. Also, it might be hard to detect a pulse after an injury since the victim may stop breathing.
Commotio cordis causes the heart to stop pumping the blood accordingly, leading to decreased blood flow to vital organs, such as the lungs, which affects breathing.
Cardiac arrest is a fatal condition. Nevertheless, on-time treatment can increase the survival chances of the victim. The patient can recover within a few minutes of the arrest with proper treatment.
However, if your child experiences cardiac arrest, it’s vital to understand the cause. Your child’s health history might help the doctors determine the cause of the cardiac arrest. After that, the doctor will discuss the treatment options to improve the child’s heart and prevent other arrests from happening in the future.
All in all, it’s advisable to practice caution where applicable to prevent pediatric cardiac arrests. For instance, if your child participates in sports activities such as hockey or baseball, see to it that they wear protective gear to prevent them from sustaining injuries.