Entries in Cardiac Arrest (13)


Heart Troubles Rare but Deadly in Young Athletes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though relatively rare, a cardiac event that strikes a young person at practice or play is often deadly.  About 100 young people die every year playing organized sports, and cardiac arrest is the cause in half the cases, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA).

Dr. Dominique Abrams, a cardiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, said cardiac conditions in young people typically fall into one of two categories.

The first, cardiomyopathies, involve some abnormality of the heart such as enlargement, thinning walls or scaring.  The second type is caused by rhythm disturbances.  Nothing appears wrong with the heart but it has a tendency to beat irregularly in some way.

Abrams said that at-risk children and young adults can experience a heart event any time but that exercise certainly increases the chances.

"Patients can be at home watching TV when it happens," he said.  "But we know that symptoms might be exacerbated during sports because their adrenaline is pumping, causing the heart to beat faster."

High school players of hard driving sports like basketball, football and hockey are not the only ones at risk either -- though their stories are the ones that usually make the news.  Abrams referenced a subtype of Long Q-T syndrome that's associated with swimming deaths.

"It's thought to be brought on by the 'diving reflex,' which triggers sudden changes of heart rate and may cause loss of consciousness -- an inherently dangerous occurrence in a pool," he said.

American Heart Association studies show that young black athletes have a greater incidence of cardiovascular death than whites.  And a Dutch study in the Journal of American Cardiology found that 68 percent of cardiac arrest cases during sports play were boys.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Young Girl Survives Cardiac Arrest Because School Had Plan

Courtesy Joe Quigley(NEW YORK) -- Four years ago, Joe Quigley got the call that his 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, had suddenly collapsed at East Boston Central Catholic School after doing gym class warm-ups and running around playing ball with her first-grade classmates.

"You dread getting that phone call from the school.  I remember every word," said Quigley, a 52-year-old stay-at-home father by day and a bartender by night.  "I knew it wasn't just that she fell over and hurt her leg.  It was something serious."

When Quigley arrived at the school, Olivia was lying on the floor surrounded by EMTs.  He said the little girl, who had never been ill beyond the "usual coughs and colds," had suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

"At that point, she wasn't even stable enough to be moved," he said.  "Initially, we were going to Children's Hospital, but they said this child wouldn't make it that far."

Olivia, who is now 10, survived because her school had a medical emergency response plan, and two teachers had rushed to her side to administer CPR.

The little girl has a healthy heart, but its electrical system is defective.  She has catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia or CPVT, which can trigger cardiac arrest.

"It can happen again at any time," said Quigley, who lives with his wife Cathy, Olivia, and 16-year-old son Alex in Winthrop, Mass.  "All you can do is be prepared for it."

CPVT is characterized by episodes of fainting without having any structural deformities of the heart, according to Dr. Michael Gewitz, head of cardiology at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.

"A lot of kids faint at one time in their life," said Gewitz.  "The key is if they faint in the midst of either exercise or severe mental stress."

The underlying cause is the onset of fast ventricular tachychardia or arrhythmia. Spontaneous recovery may occur when the arrhythmia stops or it can degenerate into sudden death if cardiopulmonary resuscitation is not readily available.

According to the National Institutes of Health, CPVT is "highly lethal," causing death in 30 percent of all individuals who have had at least one episode and 80 percent of those who have had more spells.

Last year, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law that requires all schools to have medical emergency response plans.  

An estimated 250,000 Americans die each year of sudden cardiac arrest in schools, public places and at home.  About 10 percent of all these events occur among people under the age of 40.

"I was completely unaware that her school had a plan," said Quigley. "It's not something I thought to ask, but I am so thankful they did."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boy Goes Into Cardiac Arrest at Little League Game

Zoonar/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An 11-year-old boy was revived after going into cardiac arrest after being hit by a pitch during a  Monday night Little League game at Cook Park in Colonie, N.Y.

It was a balmy night in the Albany suburb. In the bottom of the first inning the little leaguer went up to bat. The ball struck him in the chest, causing him to collapse to the ground.

He had suffered from a condition called commotio cordis. It is incredibly rare, occurring only three to four times a year nationally and mostly in young boys while playing sports.

“It’s an agitation of the heart,” said Colonie EMS Chief Peter Berry. “It happens when a sports player suffers blunt force trauma. If it hits just right, it disrupts the heart’s electric signals and sends the child into cardiac arrest.”

Minutes after the boy collapsed, Prevratil, the Colonie Little League president and manager for the opposing team, leapt into action. He, other coaches and the umpire ran over to the boy while someone immediately called 911.

For about four minutes, Prevratil was on the ground with the boy trying to keep him alert. However, as his breathing grew shallower and his pulse stopped, the CPR-certified Prevratil knew that he had to act and began giving chest compressions to the boy.  Thirty seconds after compressions began, the boy started breathing sporadically and a police officer showed up and continued CPR treatments. A minute after that, EMTs arrived and administered two shocks to the boy’s chest with a defibrillator.

He regained consciousness and was transported to Albany Medical Center. Berry said that the boy is “doing very well” and is “in good spirits.”

According to Berry, 65 percent of children that go into commotio cordis die from it.

Little League International mandates all of its coaches are trained to use an automatic external defibrillator and Berry thinks that the training could even go further.

“It might be a good idea to mandate Little League CPR training.  It’s something we feel very strongly about. Early recognition and initiation of CPR is so important,” he said.

“You never know when you’re going to need it [training]. Thank God I had it,” Prevratil said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heart Attack Risk May Increase in Cold Temperatures

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.) -- Frigid temperatures can be a trigger for some coronary problems, which could explain why fatal heart attacks typically peak during winter months, according to a new study.  

Researchers at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine found that breathing cold air during physical activity can increase the body's need for oxygen. The increased need for oxygen could be troublesome for people with heart disease since the risk for cardiac arrest and death is greater, the researchers report in the study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and The American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

During the trial, researchers studied the lung and heart function of healthy adults in their 20s and 60s, while exposing them to cold temperatures. The researchers found that since their hearts were healthy, the participants were able to keep up with the changes in the demands for oxygen being supplied to the heart.  For those with heart disease, the increased demands may be too much.

Bottom line, heart disease patients may want to be more cautious during cold weather exercise.

Copyright 2012 ABC News


Fainting Can Indicate Deadly Heart Condition

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fainting: It happens to 60 percent of all Americans at some point, and it has stricken many when the cameras rolled and the stage lights shined the brightest.

Akshay Buddiga hit the floor during the National Spelling Bee in 2004, Marie Osmond collapsed on Dancing with the Stars in 2007 and American Idol’s Symone Black fell off the stage during this season’s auditions.

“People faint when there’s a decreased blood flow to the brain,” Dr. Lawrence Phillips, an assistant professor of medicine at New York University, told ABC News. “It kind of occurs temporarily, and then they pass out and then the blood flow restores to the brain, which causes them to wake up.”

It is an occurrence so common that few seek medical attention.

“Everyone doesn’t have to be alarmed that there is a serious medical problem if they pass out. But it is important for the first time you pass out that you do have further evaluation,” Phillips said. “It’s important to try to get to the bottom of why people are fainting.”

Kristine Breese thought her occasional fainting was no big deal, but now the 47-year-old mother of two and marathon runner is speaking out as part of an international public awareness campaign to get more people to pay attention to what fainting can signal.

Experts say that 25 percent of the time, fainting can indicate a potentially deadly heart condition, a condition Breese had for years before it was finally diagnosed after she passed out at home in the presence of her sister-in-law.

“My skin was gray, and I was shaking....She was telling me that she had called 911. I said something like ‘I can’t go to the hospital; I’ve got to cook dinner,’” Breese told ABC News.

Instead, she was rushed to the hospital, where doctors referred her to specialists. While they were running tests, Breese went into cardiac arrest.

“My heart actually stopped, and the doctor had to resuscitate me,” she said.

Breese was diagnosed with cardiogenic syncope, or an irregular heartbeat.

“The great news was that they knew exactly what to do and that would be for me to get a pacemaker,” Breese said. “I didn’t think I could be someone with a heart condition....What I learned through this whole experience [was] to take symptoms seriously and to take myself seriously.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Few Docs Follow Heart Attack Guidelines for Student Athletes

Jupiterimages/Thinsktock(SEATTLE) -- Sudden cardiac arrest deaths in otherwise healthy teens are usually triggered by an unknown heart condition.  While doctors have created screening guidelines for student athletes in an attempt to avoid such tragedies, perhaps the real tragedy is that few doctors actually follow these screening guidelines.

The new research, presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2011, found that fewer than 6 percent of doctors fully follow national guidelines for assessing sudden cardiac death risk during high school sports physical exams.

"Despite national guidelines that have existed unaltered for 15 years, those recommendations still have not reached the bedside for sudden cardiac arrest during sports physical screenings," said Dr. Nicolas Madsen, lead researcher and pediatric cardiology fellow at Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

More than 1,100 family doctors and pediatricians were surveyed in the study.  Less than half of physicians and only 6 percent of the 317 athletic directors questioned were aware of the national guidelines, which were published in 1996 by the American Heart Association. The guidelines consist of physical exam elements, including listening to the heart and checking blood pressure, along with eight medical history questions.

"We should really begin to implement policies such that sports physical recommendations is freely available to the public," said Madsen.  "It's clear that physicians are interested in figuring out how to get to a screening approach in the best way, that maximizes the potential for maximizing each patient visit and streamlines financing."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Cardiac Arrest Strikes More than 200,000 Each Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine caution that the rate of people treated for cardiac arrest each year in U.S. hospitals may be on the rise.  They report that, already, hospitals may treat more than 200,000 for cardiac arrest -- a condition in which the heart stops cutting off blood and oxygen flow to the brain and organs.

Of those who suffer cardiac arrest while at the hospital, the researchers report that 21 percent survive.  They say only 10 percent survive cardiac arrest when in other settings.
What the study proves, said the study's lead author, Dr. Raina M. Merchant is that cardiac arrest "represents a tremendous problem for hospitals in the United States."

Merchant adds that knowing the numbers of patients suffering these events can "provide a roadmap for improving allocation of resources to care for these critically ill patients … ."

Merchant and colleagues say that more can be done to improve cardiac arrest survival rates.  For example, hospitals can prevent the condition by more attentive patient monitoring, beginning CPR and defibrillation efforts more quickly and acting in close accordance with resuscitation guidelines.

The study's findings were published online in Critical Care Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boy's Fatal Cardiac Arrest Encourages Screenings, Saves Girl's Life

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- Janice English had her world turned upside down in 2006 when she found out that her then 14-year-old son Blake had died after spending a night goofing around with friends.  But little did she know at the time that her tragic experience would have later saved the life of at least one other young person close to her.

While at a slumber party on Dec. 29, 2006, Blake told his friends that his chest was killing him.  After throwing up from the pain, he collapsed and began to shake violently.  After calling 911, the paramedics told his friends to begin CPR.  When English arrived at the hospital, Blake was already gone.

Doctors told English that Blake died of sudden cardiac arrest.  For the following year, English said she "felt numb" and she had to "learn to breathe again."

When she did learn to breathe again, English began volunteering at Parent Heart Watch, a group based in Fort Worth, Texas, that seeks to protect kids and teens from sudden cardiac arrest by encouraging them to be screened for heart conditions.

A couple of years after Blake's death, English was volunteering at a free EKG screening for high school athletes in the Dallas area.  She had encouraged Nina Strenk, her lifelong best friend who was the first to arrive at the hospital when Blake died, to join her in volunteering and urged her to take advantage of the opportunity to have her kids screened.

Strenk's daughter, Ally, then 16, had grown up with Blake.  She agreed to go to the Saturday screening, if only to appease her mom and mom's best friend.

After Ally was screened, Strenk said, "I knew immediately that something was wrong because of the look on the doctor's face.  Something wasn't right."

That day, Ally was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a heart condition in which there is an extra electrical pathway in the heart.  The condition can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate.  The erratic beats can cause palpitations, dizziness lightheadedness, fainting, and sometimes even sudden death.

Within the next week, doctors performed a cardiac ablation, a procedure that can correct heart rhythm problems by using long tubes, threaded down a vein to the heart to fix any structural problems causing arrhythmias.  And within a few months, doctors corrected the condition.

"I'm so thankful for Janice and for Blake," said Strenk.  "I feel like he had a hand in potentially saving Ally's life.  We just wouldn't have known anything without that EKG."

About 400 teenagers were screened the same day Ally was diagnosed.  Along with Ally, English said nine other boys found out they had some sort of irregular heart condition.

English now advocates for EKG screenings of all children through Parent Heart Watch.  She encourages parents to ask their children how they're feeing.  And she believes the screenings should be a part of standard physical routines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Should Teens Be Screened for Heart Problems?

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Medical experts have long debated whether teens, particularly athletes, should be screened for heart conditions.  When young athletes such as Wes Leonard, the young Michigan basketball player who died in early March moments after scoring the winning shot for his team, literally drop dead due to underlying heart conditions, parents and physicians begin to wonder if there is anything that can be done to prevent it from happening. 

In some countries in Europe, all high school age children undergo electrocardiograms, or ECGs, to check for certain heart defects.  This isn't done in the U.S., however, because many experts think general screening isn't efficient and wouldn't lead to a sizable reduction in sudden deaths in young adults.

However, by screening over 50,000 high school students in the greater Chicago area using ECG, researchers at the Midwest Heart Foundation detected particular heart conditions, known to be associated with sudden cardiac death, in 2.16 percent of the kids.  They argue their findings show that ECG screening is beneficial and should be implemented as part of a physical for all high school students.

Even so, four out of five medical experts consulted tell ABC News they still don't think such screening is justified.

The lone supporter of general screening recalled that once, when telling the father of a teen volleyball player who had died on the court that ECG screening isn't cost effective, the grieving father replied, "Be sure to include the cost of the funeral."

The Midwest Foundation Thursday presented the argument for teen heart screenings at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in San Francisco.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds High Survival Rates of Cardiac Arrest at Exercise Facilities

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Heart attacks claim the lives of 250,000 Americans every year, but those victims fortunate enough to be near an automated external defibrillator, or AED, have a better chance of survival.

And one of the best places to be if you want to be near one, apparently, is a gym.

In a recent study, presented Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in San Francisco, researchers found that in exercise facilities in Seattle, half the people who suffered a heart attack in a gym, dance studio or bowling alley survived. That's compared to a 36 percent survival rate at other indoor locations.

The reason: The exercise facilities provided AEDs.  The devices are required by law in schools and medical offices.

Heart attacks also occurred in places like dance studios in more than 8.7 percent of the cases. About four percent happened in bowling alleys.

Authors of the study from the University of Wisconsin concluded that the relatively high rate of heart attacks at alternative exercise sites is an important factor in deciding where AEDs are placed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio