Sudden Death Should Trigger Family Check Ups

When Simon died, we got some very important advice

– “get your hearts checked because kids aren’t supposed to die.” Over the past six years, we’ve discovered that this advice was unique, which is unfortunate. Most of the families that we talk to that have been striken with sudden cardiac arrest, are not given this advice. The SIDS organization doesn’t even give this advice. I’m glad that a Hopkin’s doctor, Anne Murphy, is on this soap box.

The recent flurry of highly publicized cases of young athletes dying suddenly on the playing field has prompted Johns Hopkins Children’s Center cardiologists to discuss the medical significance of a child’s sudden death for the rest of the family.

Because most cases of sudden cardiac death in young athletes stem from an underlying heart condition, a child’s sudden death or resuscitation from cardiac arrest should always prompt medical evaluation for the whole family, starting with parents and siblings and, possibly, extending to other family members.

“Because several types of inherited, and often lethal, heart conditions can manifest themselves in sudden death or fainting during exercise, the story doesn’t end with the child being successfully brought back to life or with the postmortem results,” says pediatric cardiologist Anne Murphy, M.D., of Hopkins Children’s.

Once the initial shock is over, the family should talk with their physician about further evaluation to rule out inherited forms of heart disease, she advises.

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