It’s Finally Here: New AHA Statement On Resuscitation In Pediatric Patients With Heart Disease And Comments From The Author

Do you want to read something amazing, awesome, and interesting? The AHA recently published its latest Scientific Statement: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in Infants and Children With Cardiac Disease

Cardiac arrest in the hospital is 10 times more common among children with congenital heart defects or other acquired heart conditions compared to children with healthy hearts, according to the statement published Monday in the journal Circulation.  As a pediatric cardiac intensivist, I often find myself overthinking things when I go for my PALS or ACLS recertification.  “Well, if the patient is having a pulmonary hypertensive crisis, then I’d actually do this also…” or “At this point, I would have already activated ECMO.” In all honesty, I don’t reach for my PALS card during a real-life resuscitation in the pediatric cardiac ICU anymore.  Not because I don’t follow the guidelines – I am the first to admit that high-quality CPR is the cornerstone of resuscitation and my team has these algorithms streamlined and burned into the backs of our minds – but because I have so many other things going through my head for this patient population.  (Does this baby have pacing wires? What vessels are patent? Is the shunt occluded? How will vasopressin affect this kid’s physiology? Has this chest tube been draining appropriately leading up to the arrest?)  None of these things are specifically addressed in the AHA resuscitation guidelines, until now. 

Bradley S. Marino, MD, MPP, MSCE, Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Pediatric Cardiac Intensivist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chair of the AHA Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young along with his expert colleagues on the AHA Congenital Cardiac Defects Committee have painstakingly taken the time to address the unique issues surrounding peri-resuscitation care and considerations for the high-risk pediatric cardiac population.  “The new statement is meant to be a powerful tool for health care professionals to both improve survival in children with heart disease who have a cardiac arrest and prevent cardiac arrests from ever happening in these high-risk children,” said Dr. Marino.  “This scientific statement is a critical supplement to the American Heart Association’s Pediatric Advanced Life Support Guidelines that has been long overdue,” Marino said.

I asked Dr. Marino what the most important thing was that the authors learned while putting together the statement. “Given the incidence of cardiac arrest in the pediatric cardiac population, activities to prevent cardiac arrest are very important.  We need to do more to modify our present clinical care systems to minimize the incidence of cardiac arrest.  In addition, we need to tailor our resuscitation strategies for children with cardiac disease. While the PALS recommendations are very helpful to resuscitate all children with cardiac arrest, more information was needed to address the special needs of the pediatric cardiac population.”

The statement reviews all of the stages of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (pre-arrest, during CPR, and post-resuscitation care) and the considerations for each stage of single-ventricle palliation, right- and left-sided heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, cardiomyopathies and myocarditis, and arrhythmias.  They also speak to considerations related to patient age, patient location, ECPR, and all of the various pharmacologic agents that we use frequently in these patients. 

As for Dr. Marino’s hopes for providers to take away after reading the statement, he says “Tailoring resuscitation is possible once providers understand the specific anatomy, physiology, and cardiopulmonary interaction that is present at each patient’s bedside.”

It’s definitely a long document to read through, but is a critical review for all providers who care for pediatric patients with heart disease, especially those of us in the ICU setting.  Click here to read it.

David Werho Headshot

David K. Werho, MD is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California San Diego and a Pediatric Cardiac Intensivist at Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego.  His research focuses on pediatric cardiac ICU outcomes as well as interventions and curriculum development in medical education.  He tweets @DWerho and contributes to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society Newsletter as editor and contributor.

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