Primary cardiac arrhythmias in children

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1999 Apr;15(2):95-8. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199904000-00004.


Objectives: Primary cardiac arrhythmias are much less common in children than adults. This study was performed to identify the characteristics of primary arrhythmias in pediatric patients in the Emergency Department (ED).

Methods: Retrospective review of ED visits of patients <18 years of age presenting between January 1991 and November 1996 with an Emergency Department diagnosis of primary cardiac arrhythmia. Secondary cardiac arrhythmias, ie, sinus tachycardia resulting from a fever, were excluded. Clinically significant arrhythmias were defined as those capable of altering cardiovascular stability. SITE: 26 Community Hospital EDs.

Results: A total of 2.3 million ED visits were reviewed and 320 arrhythmias in children were identified in 0.58 million patients under 18 years of age. The overall incidence of arrhythmias was 13.9 per 100,000 ED visits and 55.1 per 100,000 pediatric ED visits. The incidence of clinically significant arrhythmias was 5.7 per 100,000 ED visits and 22.5 per 100,000 patients <18 years of age. The mean patient age was 113 (+/-0.31) years with a peak in infancy and a second peak in late childhood and adolescence. The most common arrhythmias were: Sinus tachycardia: 160 (50%); Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): 42 (13%); Nonspecific arrhythmia (NSA): 34 (10.6%); Bradycardia: 19 (6%); and Atrial fibrillation (a-fib): 15 (4.6%). The most common clinically significant arrhythmias by age group were: [table in text]. Nine patients had an additional diagnosis of Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome, eight with Sinus tachycardia and one with SVT. There were four cardiac arrests noted all with ventricular fibrillation as the recorded arrhythmia.

Conclusion: Primary arrhythmias are unusual ED presentations in children and atrial tachyarrhythmias are the most common rate and rhythm disturbance in this population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tachycardia / complications