on ADHD drugs should have heart test, urge scientists
by Angela Hussain
children should have an electrocardiogram to test for heart problems
before being prescribed ADHD drugs, American cardiologists have
It follows fears that the drugs, such as Ritalin and Concerta, can
- on rare occasions - lead to heart attacks, and sudden cardiac
death for children with underlying heart problems.
Children already on ADHD medication but who have not had an electrocardiogram
should be given one, the American Heart Association scientists also
recommended in a statement.
In America about 2.5 million children and 1.5 million adults receive
medication for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder),
it is estimated.
1999 and 2004, 19 children on ADHD medication in America died suddenly
and 26 had strokes, cardiac arrests and heart palpitations, according
to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Some doctors argue, however, there is no evidence that sudden cardiac
death is a bigger problem for children on ADHD drugs than for children
who aren't taking the drugs.
In the UK, 55,000 children in 2006 were prescribed ADHD drugs, particularly
the methylphenidates Ritalin and Concerta, it has been estimated.
Prescribing of ADHD drugs doubled in the UK between between 1998
UK treatment-advisory body, Nice, advises professionals that all
children on methylphenidates should receive "regular monitoring”.
But it does not recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG).
Two years ago the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
confirmed that - according to its adverse drugs reaction monitoring
system – the deaths of two of nine UK children on methylphenidates
were heart-related: one had a heart attack and a second an enlarged
The agency stressed there was no evidence the drugs caused the deaths.
The American Heart Society's scientific statement on Cardiovascular
Monitoring of Children and Adolescents with Heart Disease Receiving
Stimulant Drugs was published online in Circulation: Journal of
the American Heart Association.
read: “Studies have shown that stimulant medications like
those used to treat ADHD can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
side effects are insignificant for most children with ADHD; however,
they’re an important consideration for children who have a
heart conditions increase the risk for sudden cardiac death, which
occurs when the heart rhythm becomes erratic and doesn’t pump
blood through the body.”
Young People + Psychiatric
not find abnormal heart of my ADHD son
Zelia Strauss, South Africa
May 7, 2008
My son who is/was a professional rugby player had a permanent heart
pacer implant on the 10th of April 2008 after being diagnosed with
SA Node – sick sinus syndrome – Bradycardia. He’ll
be 22 on the 8th of May. He is a super fit young man with a strong
He had numerous ECGs done which showed nothing. Only an enlarged
heart (which is normal being a professional athlete, according to
was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of seven and was on Ritalin for
a couple of months and then we decided against the use of Ritalin.
He was on a regular gym routine and we never had a problem again
that we could pick up. However, last year September 2007, he collapsed
after 20 minutes on the rugby field. According to the doctors it
was an asthma attack. He was on Symbicord and Singulair for a couple
of months, but fatigue and breathing problems kept ruling his life.
He went back to the cardiologist and insisted on further testing.
wearing a Holter monitor ECG (it automatically records your heart’s
activity for a 24-hour period which provides an extended look at
your heart rhythms) only then was he diagnosed with SA Node - sick
sinus syndrome - Bradycardia and not asthma. It is abnormal heart
is recuperating at home now and being a health/exercise freak/fanatic
he can’t wait to start again. His heart rate is normal but
nausea and general malaise is still a problem.
just wanted to share this with you - that more than 10 ECGs were
all normal according to the cardiologists. So ECGs, to me, is not
the final answer.
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