Bradycardia in Children
Bradycardia is a slower-than-normal heartbeat. Bradycardia can prevent enough oxygen from reaching certain areas of your child’s body when he or she is active. It can be serious if it keeps enough oxygen from reaching your child’s brain and other parts of your child’s body.
What are the causes?
This condition may be caused by:
- Changes in breathing (sinus arrhythmia).
- Heart conditions that are present at birth (congenital heart defect).
- Certain infections, including Lyme disease, endocarditis, and myocarditis.
- Surgery to repair a heart condition.
- An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
- A condition in which the adrenal glands do not function the way they should (adrenal insufficiency).
- A low body temperature (hypothermia).
- An increase in pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure).
- Being born prematurely.
What increases the risk?
This condition is more likely to develop in children who:
- Were born prematurely.
- Have a congenital heart defect.
- Had heart surgery.
- Have hypothyroidism.
- Have Lyme disease.
- Have adrenal insufficiency.
- Take certain medicines.
- Have heart disease, damage, or infection.
What are the signs or symptoms?
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Lack of energy (lethargy).
- Feeling faint.
- Problems exercising.
How is this diagnosed?
This condition may be diagnosed based on:
- Your child’s symptoms.
- Your child’s medical history.
- A physical exam.
During the exam your child’s health care provider will listen to your child’s heartbeat and check his or her pulse. To confirm the diagnosis, your child’s health care provider may order tests, such as:
- An electrocardiogram (ECG). This test records the heart’s electrical activity. The test can show how fast your child’s heart is beating and whether the heartbeat is steady.
- A test in which your child wears a portable device (event recorderor Holter monitor) to record the heart’s electrical activity while your child goes about her or his day. This test may be done if your child’s symptoms come and go. Your child may need to wear the monitor for 24–48 hours.
How is this treated?
Treatment for this condition depends on the cause of the condition and how severe your child’s symptoms are. Treatment may involve:
- Treatment of the underlying condition.
- Having a small, battery-operated device called a pacemaker implanted under the skin. When bradycardia occurs, this device can be used to increase your child’s heart rate and help his or her heart to beat in a regular rhythm.
Follow these instructions at home:
Learn how to check your child’s heart rate. You can do this by feeling for a pulse or listening to your child’s heart with a stethoscope and counting the number of beats in one minute.
- Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider.
- Have your child keep all follow-up visits as directed by your child’s health care provider. This is important because medicines or treatments may need to be adjusted as your child grows.
How is this prevented?
In some cases, bradycardia may be prevented by:
- Treating underlying medical problems.
- Stopping behaviors or medicines that can trigger the condition.
Contact a health care provider if:
- Your child’s symptoms do not improve.
Get help right away if:
- Your child’s symptoms get worse.
- Your child faints or loses consciousness.
- Your child has trouble breathing.
- Your child becomes confused.
- Your child has cool, pale, or sweaty skin.
- Your child has sudden nausea or vomiting.