The Canadian Cardiovascular Society is the first in Canada to issue guidelines aimed at helping primary care and emergency physicians, as well as specialists, recognize and manage heart failure in children. The guidelines were released today at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.
Pediatric heart failure is often fatal and occurs in about 3,000 children annually in North America. Worldwide, the problem is far greater and the causes are diverse. To date there has been little guidance to assist practitioners who deal with children with heart failure.
"The previous guidelines, produced in 2004 by the international Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, are now dated and were not designed for front-line practitioners who deal with these children at the first encounter," says Dr. Paul F. Kantor, who chaired the guidelines and is head of pediatric cardiology at the Stollery Children's Hospital, University of Alberta.
"Providing guidance in this area may help to solve one of the biggest challenges we have: that children with heart failure are usually not recognized early and treated effectively. When heart failure presents late in the disease course, it is more dangerous and can be fatal."
Heart failure in children is far more likely to cause death than cancer, but the problem is not nearly as well recognized, says Dr. Kantor.
About half of the children who present with obvious heart failure will die, or require a heart transplant within five years. Unfortunately, awareness regarding organ donation is still relatively low among Canadian doctors and patients, and a heart transplant is not always available.
"We try our best to treat them with medication and we also use advanced devices such as the Berlin Heart and other ventricular assist devices to keep them alive. Occasionally recovery occurs and some patients will be fortunate enough to receive a transplant," Dr. Kantor says.
"The biggest issue
|Contact: Jane-Diane Fraser|
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada