Youth with abnormal heart rhythms more likely to have ADHD, anxiety, depression

November 11, 2019

DALLAS, Nov. 11, 2019 -- Children and teens with abnormal heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias) are more likely to have depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared with those of similar ages without chronic medical conditions or with certain select chronic childhood diseases, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2019 -- November 16-18 in Philadelphia. The Association's Scientific Sessions is an annual, premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Higher rates of depression, anxiety and ADHD have previously been described in young adults born with structural heart defects (congenital heart disease).

"This may be the first study of this size looking at children and teenagers with various cardiac arrhythmias (but without structural heart disease) that have been diagnosed with or are taking medication for anxiety and/or depression," said Keila N. Lopez, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study, medical director of Cardiology Transition Medicine and assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Texas Children's Hospital-Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Lopez is also a member of the American Heart Association's Congenital Cardiac Defect Committee.

The researchers analyzed the records of more than a quarter of a million children admitted to or seen in the emergency room of Texas Children's Hospital between 2011 and 2016. They reviewed data on more than 7,300 children with abnormal heart rhythms and compared them to children with congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and children with none of these chronic conditions (controls). "We chose cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease because they are chronic diseases that are managed with medications and usually involve multiple hospitalizations," Lopez said.

They found:"It is important to take care of children's arrhythmias as well as their mental health. Screening for anxiety and/or depression should be considered in children and adolescents cardiac arrhythmias and other chronic diseases," Lopez said.

This research suggests, "there's an entire population of kids out there with abnormal heart rhythms who don't have congenital heart disease who may be suffering very specifically and significantly from depression and ADHD that we need to potentially identify and treat to improve their quality of life," said Bradley S. Marino, M.D., M.P.P., M.S.C.E., immediate past chair of the American Heart Association Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in the Young (Young Hearts) Council, who was not involved in the study.
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Co-authors are Vincent J. Gonzalez, M.D.; Katherine E. Cutitta, Ph.D.; John Shabosky, M.D.; Mohammad F. Bilal, M.D.; and Rachel T. Kimbro, Ph.D. Author disclosures are in the abstract.

Additional Resources:Statements and conclusions of study authors presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association's policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

The American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions is a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians. Scientific Sessions 2019 is November 16-18 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. More than 12,000 leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists and allied health care professionals from around the world convene at the Scientific Sessions to participate in basic, clinical and population science presentations, discussions and curricula that can shape the future of cardiovascular science and medicine, including prevention and quality improvement. During the three-day meeting, attendees receive exclusive access to over 4,100 original research presentations and can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME), Continuing Education (CE) or Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credits for educational sessions. Engage in the Scientific Sessions conversation on social media via #AHA19.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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