Kids taking ADHD drugs need heart check

April 21, 2008 3:34:42 PM PDT
Children should be screened for heart problems with an EKG before being given drugs like Ritalin for hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder, the American Heart Association recommended.

The American Heart Association is recommending that children undergo a heart exam before they're prescribed ADHD drugs.

Stimulant drugs like Ritalin that are used to treat hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder can increase blood pressure and heart rate. For kids with heart conditions, the drugs could make them more vulnerable to a heart attack and other problems.

The heart group now wants children to have a thorough exam, including a family history and an EKG, before they're put on the drugs to make sure that they don't have any undiagnosed heart issues.

It's best to do this before starting medication, but should also be continued.

The American Heart Association says it's OK for kids with heart conditions to take ADHD drugs, but they should be under the care of a cardiologist.

The medications already carry warnings of possible heart risks in those with heart defects or other heart problems, which some critics said were driven more by concerns of overuse of the drugs than their safety.

The government estimates about 2.5 million American children and 1.5 million adults take medication for ADHD. A screening of about 1,100 children found that about 2 percent of them had some kind of