Arrhythmia is defined as an abnormal beating of the heart and is displayed in a number of heart conditions that can happen at any age, even in infants and older children. Many parents must come to terms with the fact that their child has a heart condition. Like many other conditions, some arrhythmias are easier to diagnose and treat than others but understanding the most common heart problems can help parents spot them if they do occur. If you have a family history of heart conditions, it is even more important you know the common arrhythmic conditions, not only for your child but also for yourself.
Long QT Syndrome
Long QT Syndrome, also known as LQTS, like all arrhythmias, affects our hearts electrical impulse system. If a child is diagnosed with LQTS, it means that two lower chambers in the heart, which are known as ventricles, take longer than they should to contract and relax. This kind of condition is often hereditary (meaning it runs in the family), but it can also be caused due to an adverse side effect to some medications.
Symptoms can include fainting and feelings of fluttering in the chest. If your child begins to suffer from fainting episodes and was otherwise healthy, it is vital that you see a doctor to get a diagnosis. This condition can be life-threatening and, therefore, being aware of it as a parent can make sure that if your child does present with symptoms, you understand what it could be and get appropriate treatment.
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
Tachycardia is a type of arrhythmia in which the heart beats too fast. Depending on your child’s age, their resting heart rate will differ. Young babies can have incredibly fast heart rates, usually around 110-149 beats a minute, whereas older children and teenagers usually have a resting heart rate of around 70-99. The most common tachycardic condition in young people is SVT.
SVT occurs when the electrical impulses within the upper chambers of the heart, also known as the atria, begin to fire at an abnormal rhythm. The pacemaker within the heart called the sinoatrial (SA) or sinus node, then becomes affected, and the electrical impulses coming from this cause the heart to beat faster than it should. Infants usually show symptoms of this through an increased breathing rate and they can become lethargic very easily.
If you grow increasingly concerned, book an appointment with a specialist urgently. The London Heart Clinic is a specialist clinic that helps both adults and children live a normal life with their heart conditions. If you believe your child is suffering from this condition, Dr Syed Ahsan specialises in diagnosing and treating SVT and will be able to help you out with any queries you may have.
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)
In WPW Syndrome, the electrical pathways that are connected through the upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) chambers of the heart begin to malfunction, leading signals to the ventricles too early. As this signal is premature, it is often ricocheted back to the atria, leading to a quickened heart rate. This syndrome occurs because the heart has one more electrical connection than it should, and your child will be born with this condition.
Although WPW Syndrome is congenital (present from birth), your child can begin to present with symptoms at any age, even into adulthood. Thankfully, WPW Syndrome on its own is a relatively mild heart problem and is usually cured with the correct treatment. If your child suffers from another condition called atrial fibrillation, WPW Syndrome can become life-threatening. This is extremely rare, but with treatment, this risk can usually be eliminated.
Tachycardia is a heart that beats too fast, whereas bradycardia is a heart that beats too slow. The sinus node within the heart is usually the cause of bradycardia in children, and this form of the condition is known as sinus bradycardia. This condition often occurs in children post-surgery or due to a child being premature. If your child suffers from sinus bradycardia, they may present with absolutely no symptoms at all.
Other forms of bradycardia can be more significant. These include bradycardia caused by a heart block or dysfunction with the sinus node. These conditions usually show symptoms such as fatigue and fainting, which may worsen during activity or exercise. Sometimes in younger children, significant bradycardia can be confirmed if they complain of recurring nightmares.
As children, especially younger ones, cannot explain how they are feeling and may not be able to inform you that they are suffering from symptoms relating to an undiagnosed heart condition, understanding them will ensure you always have an eye out in case they begin to show some unusual behaviours.
If you are worried about your child, take them to a doctor who can begin the process of diagnosing an arrhythmia. Most heart conditions can be treated with medications or surgery, a specialist doctor will explain the options you and your child have for treatments once diagnosed.