All kids should be screened for heart-related issues, pediatric group says

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 8:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -Three years ago, Kristy and Ryan Ray lost their 8-yeard-old son Caleb. He passed away suddenly after soccer practice when he went into cardiac arrest while kicking the ball with his friends.

“You think about concussions or broken bones. You never consider there may be something wrong with my child’s heart, especially when active.

He was so active,” said Kristy Ray, Caleb’s mom.

Up until now, screening for cardiac conditions in children has mostly been targeted toward athletes.

In a statement published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now calling for all children to be screened for conditions that could lead to cardiac arrest or death.

The AAP said those screenings should be part of a child’s regular exam and called for doctors to delve into personal and family medical history.

Dr. Christy Robinson, a pediatrician at Capital City Pediatrics, is working closely with her team to implement the screening into children’s checkups.

“It will be a series of screening questions. A combination of three: personal history, family history and, as well, a detailed physical exam,” said Dr. Christy Robinson.

Some questions that might be asked are: Has the child ever has shortness of breath or chest pains related to exercise? Any sudden passing out spells?

“If we have any of those red flags, then we will proceed with doing some testing, and usually that will be an EKG,” said Dr. Robinson.

The statement also lists common conditions for primary care physicians to be aware of that could put young patients at risk, saying these screenings could save a life.

The Rays believe this is an overwhelming outcome the two didn’t anticipate.

“We needed the pediatric community to back it up. For us, it’s another step towards saving more children and keeping parents from having to go through what we have gone through every day,” said Kristy Ray.

The AAP said it’s important for pediatricians to advocate emergency action plans and CPR training in communities and that no single screening strategy will detect all conditions associated with sudden cardiac arrest.

The Rays started the Live Like Caleb Foundation, which provides AED units with CPR/AED training to youth organizations.

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