by David Gutierrez
October 7, 2008
(NaturalNews) Children should get a heart exam before they start any drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), because those drugs may raise the risk of sudden cardiac death in children with preexisting heart conditions, the American Heart Association has said in the journal Circulation.
The recommendations came from a special panel that the association drafted to look into the connection between ADHD drugs and heart problems.
“There’s been concern that these drugs might be associated in a very small number of individuals’ sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death,” said panel leader Dr. Victoria Vetter of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
ADHD drugs such as methylphenidate, known more commonly by the brand name Ritalin, are central nervous system stimulants. In children with ADHD, they can have a calming and focusing effect. But such stimulants are also known to raise blood pressure and heart rate, which can be dangerous for people with preexisting heart conditions.
“There’s no registry in the country to determine how many young people are dying from sudden cardiac arrest and what they might have causing that – and similarly how many of those who die might be on these medications,” Vetter said.
Due to the lack of good data on the risk, the American Heart Association decided to take a cautious position and recommend electrocardiograms for all children before they start ADHD treatment with stimulants.
An electrocardiogram can detect the abnormalities in heart rhythm that can predispose people to sudden cardiac death.
“It won’t pick up every one. There will be some false positives,” Vetter said. “But it’s a relatively inexpensive and simple test that doesn’t hurt the children in any way and it will let us identify some of these children and know that they have heart conditions.”
The association recommended that children currently receiving ADHD drugs also undergo electrocardiogram screening.