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Could video games trigger dangerous heart rhythms in children?

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

(Health Day)

TUESDAY, Oct. 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Playing video games may feel sedentary, but it may be enough to trigger life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias in some vulnerable children, according to a new report.

Australian researchers have collated reports from 22 children and adolescents who suffered heart rhythm disorders while playing video games. In many cases, children suddenly fainted, with some entering heart attack — which is fatal without immediate emergency treatment.

Four children, all teenagers, died.

It’s unclear how common such incidents might be, experts said. But in almost all of these cases, the children had underlying heart problems – sometimes known and sometimes unrecognized until the incident in the game.

“Any child who has a new blackout, faint, collapse or seizure should be seen by their local or family doctor who can determine if further testing is needed,” said lead researcher Dr Claire. Lawley, pediatric cardiologist at Sydney Children’s Hospitals. Network in Sydney.

“Not all fainting is dangerous,” she stressed. “In fact, most fainting spells are not dangerous, but some can be. It is important to detect children with dangerous episodes. Once doctors detect a child or adolescent with a heartbeat, medical treatment is extremely effective in ensuring his safety and well.”

Dr. Daniel Sohinki, a cardiologist at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia, agreed that parental vigilance is key.

“If there are any symptoms suggestive of a heart condition, get it checked out,” said Sohinki, co-author of an op-ed published online with the report in the journal’s Oct. 11 issue. Heartbeat.

He made another point: gambling is no longer just a hobby. Over the past 20 years it has become a competitive “sport”. Individual players and teams compete in sponsored “esports” events that stream online or stream on ESPN and other channels – sometimes with huge cash prizes at stake.

It might be “reasonable,” Sohinki said, to screen college sports participants for underlying heart abnormalities — as traditional student-athletes are.

“These esports events are in many ways similar to traditional sporting events,” he said.

The circumstances surrounding the cases in Lawley’s report weren’t always clear, including whether they occurred at a competitive event. There have been instances, however, where physical and/or emotional stress has seemed to act as the trigger.

In one case, Sohinki noted, the child suffered from arrhythmia after jumping to celebrate a victory. Another involved a child arguing over control of the game with a sibling.

Even without jumping or fighting, Sohinki said, gambling can involve an adrenaline rush that affects the cardiovascular system in a way similar to physical exertion, including increasing blood pressure and heart rate. .

For the report, Lawley’s team gathered international case reports of children or adolescents who suffered a known or suspected illness. arrhythmia during the game.

In many cases, the child developed heart palpitations and fainted or became dizzy and nauseous. Several children have had cardiac arrest – where the heart stops beating and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body. It is fatal within minutes without emergency treatment.

Unfortunately, four of the 22 children could not be resuscitated or no attempt was documented.

For most children (19), an underlying heart defect was to blame. The most common culprit was a condition called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia – a genetic condition that can cause an abnormally rapid heartbeat in response to exercise or emotional stress.

In some cases, the children were known to have heart disease before the gambling incident happened. More often than not, the heart problem had existed under the radar.

Does that mean there is no game? Not necessarily, and the 22 cases described in the Australian study appear to be very rare.

“Since we don’t know exactly how many children actually play computer games [although we suspect the number is very large]it’s difficult to estimate the exact prevalence of this phenomenon,” Lawley said. “But it appears to be rare.”

The absolute risk of gambling-induced arrhythmia is unknown, and it is unclear whether gambling carries a greater or lesser risk for children with underlying heart conditions than other activities.

Sohinki recommended that parents work with their child’s doctor to ensure that heart disease is “optimally” managed, which usually means medication, or in some cases implanted devices, to prevent heart problems. rhythm.

Then they can discuss the risks versus the benefits of gambling, Sohinki said.

SOURCES: Claire Lawley, MD, pediatric cardiologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Sydney, Australia; Daniel Sohinki, MD, MSc, assistant professor, medicine and director, cardiac electrophysiology research, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University; Heartbeat, October 11, 2022, online

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