Chest Pain Among Kids, Not Always A Sign of Heart Problem

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A study which was published on Monday suggested that children and teens who complain of chest pain are rarely found to have heart diseases. What’s more important, the researchers say that even relatively simple steps like taking physical examination, comprehensive family history taking and regular electrocardiogram can help identify the kids and teens  who are in greater need for more extensive and expensive results for testing heart problems.

In the study which was reported in the journal Pediatrics, took into consideration records for about 3,700 children who are older than six years old and who came to the Children’s Hospital in Boston to have themselves evaluated and treated for chest pain. Out of these kids, only one percent turned out to have been diagnosed with an underlying heart condition. Most of the diagnoses include pericarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle and the surrounding sac, supraventricular tachycardia, as well as rapid heartbeat—and most if not all of these are rarely life threatening. Also, they found out that no children died of any heart disease during the 10 year study period.

“This study should be reassuring,” shared Dr. Susan F. Saleeb, lead researcher of the study, and pediatric cardiologist at the Boston hospital. “Chest pain in children is very common,” she told Reuters Health, “but the chance of a cardiac cause is very low.”

It is well known that sudden cardiac deaths rarely occur among children and teenagers—at about one to six deaths per 100,000 in the US. Furthermore, most of these sudden cardiac deaths occur to kids and teenagers during strenuous sports. However, despite the rarity of these cardiac deaths of children and teens, these often become the subject of news and media attention, creating an undue alarm among parents and may lead them to have their children tested and treated, which they actually do not need at all.

Most children who feel chest pain are usually found to have milder conditions like asthma, other respiratory conditions or even acid reflux. But in many cases, the accurate cause cannot be ascertained like those in 52% of the children involved in the study. During the course of the study, there are no universally accepted standards and guidelines on how to check children’s chest pain.

The children who were involved in the study were seen sometime during 2000 to 2009, and hospitals had no standard method for assessing chest pain and the possibility of heart diseases. All of these kids were asked of their family history, went physical exams and had their EKGs taken; and even in some cases echocardiography and stress tests.

In response to the lack of standards in dealing with children with chest pain, many physicians made use of the SCAMP method. In this method, children are screened based on their symptoms, family history, physical exam as well as EKG.

“Chest pain in children does not represent the same disease as chest pain in adults does,” Saleeb said.




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