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Below is a brief description of the heart conditions that we screen. These conditions represent some of the more common causes of why children and young adults might die suddenly.
HYPERTROPHIC CARDIOMYOPATHY: This is a problem of the heart muscle where the bottom chambers (or ventricles) are too thick. The risk of this condition has been reported to be as frequent as 1 in 500 individuals. While most of these cases are caused by high blood pressure, a genetic problem of the heart can also cause this and can lead to serious arrhythmias and/or heart failure.
DILATED CARDIOMYOPATHY: This is a problem where the heart muscle is too large and does not squeeze like it is supposed to. There are many causes of this problem, including viral infections, toxic exposures, and genetic problems. The risk of this condition is estimated to be 1 in 2,000 individuals.
AORTIC ROOT ANEURYSM: This is a problem of an abnormal enlargement of the main artery that arises from the heart and is responsible for delivering oxygenated blood to the body. The cause of this condition is either due to an abnormal aortic valve or due to a genetic problem. The risk of this condition is estimated to be 1 in 10,000 individuals.
LONG QT SYNDROME: This is a problem of the electricity of the heart that is caused by an issue with how the heart muscle handles essential elements like sodium and potassium. Children with this condition can suddenly develop unstable heart rhythms. Most cases are caused by a genetic problem, though some are caused by certain medications. The risk is as high as 1 in 5,000 individuals.
WOLFF-PARKINSON-WHITE (WPW) SYNDROME: This is a problem of the electricity of the heart that is caused by an abnormal connection between the top and bottom pumping chambers. This condition can cause very fast heartbeats and rarely an unstable heart rhythm. The risk of this condition has been reported to be as frequent as 1 in 1,500 individuals. WPW is a congenital disorder of the heart.
Monitoring the heart health of teenagers in our community provides us with a great opportunity to save lives. Testing students as they enter high school is important.
The heart is physically immature under the age of 14.
High school athletes are pushed to a much higher level of exertion, putting more stress on the heart.
Underlying heart abnormalities go undetected without the presence of symptoms.
A physical exam is not enough – active teenagers appear healthy so reported symptoms may be overlooked by physicians.
NOTE: Our recommendation is for screening twice during adolescence.
This Is How We Do It: During each screening, we perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) on every student and if necessary an echocardiogram (ECHO). Screenings are administered by certified ECHO sonographers and ECG technicians. These simple, non-invasive tests allow skilled cardiologists to evaluate the structure and electrical activity of the heart to identify students who might be at risk of a cardiac event. Upon review, any teenager having an abnormal screen may be offered the opportunity to undergo a more thorough evaluation so that a plan for care can be established. We assure each teenager’s confidentiality, privacy and individual modesty is respected throughout all aspects of the screening. [/two_third]