The case study, published on Wednesday, detailed an incident in which a particularly large bite of a hot dog triggered the boy's vagus nerve, a nerve that helps the heart function. The trigger stimulated an abnormal heart rhythm that resulted in cardiac arrest.
Though the boy fainted, he was defibrillated and resuscitated when help arrived. He was first sent to the ICU, but was referred to researchers at the Istanbul's Mehmet Akif Ersoy Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Training and Research Hospital due to "suspicious" heart rhythm readings.
The researchers behind the case study explained that the boy was taken to a hospital, where tests found that he was suffering from Brugada syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal heart rhythm condition.
Brugada syndrome is difficult to diagnose, according to the Stanford Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease, because many people don't suffer from any symptoms until they have an episode like the nine-year-old in this case study did. Though it's difficult to measure statistics for that reason, the Stanford Center estimates that about 4 out of every 1,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed.
"The biggest danger of Brugada syndrome is that it can cause the heart to develop dangerous irregular rhythms that can lead to sudden death," Sophia Jan, MD, MSHP, a pediatric specialist at Cohen Children's Medical Center, told HealthDay.
There's currently no cure for the syndrome, but doctors can place an implantable cardiac defibrillator that helps eliminate risk of death if another episode occurs — the boy referred to in this case study has had one implanted to prevent further sudden cardiac arrest.
Since the condition is genetic, doctors brought the boy's family in for testing, and was able to diagnose his brother with Brugada syndrome before an episode occurred.
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