Dr Barney Scholefield told delegates at the London Cardiac Arrest Symposium there are an average of 15 incidences of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) per every 1,000 children in the UK, but that they are 10 times more likely in infants.
The paediatric intensive care consultant from Birmingham Children's Hospital estimated that there 600-900 paediatric cardiac arrests every year with an average survival rate of just 7%.
He added that the because the large majority of infant cardiac arrests took place in the home, less than half were witnessed but the likelihood of 'bystanders' attempting CPR was higher than with adults.
Concluding the session which formed part of the London Trauma Conference [4-7 Dec], Dr Scholefield said: "Prevention really is the key here, as there is only so much CPR can help without knowledge.
"I'd really like to see basic life support training for all expectant parents as part of antenatal classes - it could make a real impact as though it is rare, any sudden cardiac arrest is absolutely devasting to the family involved."
The risk of paediatric cardiac arrest is particularly heightened among severely premature babies with weaker immune systems and organs; the numbers of which are rising in the UK according to new figures from EPICure.
Their studies, funded by the Medical Research Council, looked at premature babies born in hospitals throughout England in 1995 and 2006 and showed howed that 53% of babies born between 22 and 25 weeks and admitted to intensive care lived and were sent home in 2006. The figure for 1995 was 40%.
Yet there was no improvement in survival at 22 and 23 weeks - which is before the abortion limit in England, Scotland and Wales.
Professor Kate Costeloe believes the survival figures before 24 weeks are "terribly small" and added: "Yes we do have increased survival of these babies, but that increase is all happening in the first week of life.
"It's very disappointing that they are not doing any better having survived the first week."
Andrew Whitelaw, a professor of neonatal medicine at the University of Bristol, suggested that the findings would provide the government with much to consider in healthcare spending priorities.
"The average survivor was in hospital for over three months and this represents an investment of scores of thousands of pounds per baby," he said.
"Having made this commitment it is clearly important that this is followed up by a smaller investment in support for the minority that have extra needs because of learning difficulties, visual impairment et cetera."
The Cardiac Arrest Symposium formed part of theLondon Trauma Conference 2012- for more coverage follow @ambulance_news & @LDNtrauma on Twitter with #ltc2012
Posted 05/12/2012 by firstname.lastname@example.org