Video Games May Trigger Deadly Heart Arrhythmias in Susceptible Children

Data have shown that some children and adolescents experience heart arrhythmia while playing video games. Owing to this phenomenon is the adrenergic stimulation that takes place when one is absorbed in an electronic gaming environment.

Given that adolescents deemed at high-risk to play sports due to a proarrhythmic diagnosis are often encouraged to use electronic gaming, it’s important to understand the impact this mode of play has on the heart.

Researchers of a new study sought to assess examples of electronic gaming induced arrhythmia, identify at-risk populations, pinpoint the most-commonly found arrhythmias seen in these groups, and discern the overall significance of this problems. Their findings were reported this week in Heart Rhythm. 

In this multisite case series analysis, the investigators combed Medline, PubMed, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing, Allied Health Literature, and Cochrane Library to identify relevant studies. The main endpoint of interest was defined as the occurrence of an arrhythmic event, fainting, or cardiac arrest during electronic gaming.

Findings Suggest Further Investigation is Needed

The final analysis comprised of six relevant articles. The researchers found that 22 patients (18 in the case series, and 4 via systematic review) between the ages of 7 and 16, mostly male (86%) with suspected or proven ventricular arrhythmia during gaming. They observed that over a quarter (27%) suffered cardiac arrest, and 18% died suddenly. Moreover, they found that a proarrhythmic cardiac diagnosis was known in 31% of patients before their electronic gaming event, and in 54% after their gaming event. In terms of arrhythmia type, 45% of individuals had catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, 18% had long QT syndrome, 9% were post–congenital cardiac surgery, 9% had “idiopathic” ventricular fibrillation, and one had coronary ischemia following Kawasaki disease.

“Electronic gaming can precipitate lethal cardiac arrhythmias in susceptible children, and syncope in this setting should be investigated,” the researchers concluded. “Clinical history taking regarding syncopal events in children should include details of participation in exciting and emotionally charged activities such as electronic gaming at the time of the event. Counseling regarding safe participation in electronic gaming should be considered after a proarrhythmic cardiac diagnosis, particularly CPVT, has been made.”