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Sudden cardiac arrest and death in children

Stuart Berger, MD
Section Editors
John K Triedman, MD
Martin I Lorin, MD
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and sudden cardiac death (SCD) in children and adolescents are relatively rare. However, because these are unexpected, devastating conditions, concerted efforts have been made to continue to find evidence-based strategies that will prevent these events in a cost-effective manner.

The incidence, etiology, and prodromal signs of SCA/SCD in children and adolescents will be reviewed here. In addition, the role of screening to prevent pediatric SCA/SCD and the approach to evaluating survivors of SCA and victims of SCD will also be discussed.

The management of children with cardiopulmonary arrest is discussed separately. (See "Pediatric advanced life support (PALS)" and "Defibrillation and cardioversion in children (including automated external defibrillation)".)


The reported incidence of SCA/SCD in children and young adults ranges from 0.5 to 2.5 per 100,000 person-years [1-8]. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1500 people under 25 years of age die each year of SCD [9]. Most studies have shown a bimodal age distribution with higher incidence rates in infancy and adolescence/young adulthood [6,8,10].

In a population-based study from the state of Washington (1980 to 2009), the overall incidence of SCA among people aged 0 to 35 years was 2.28 per 100,000 person-years [8]. Incidence rates and survival rates varied according to age:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 27, 2017.
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