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In pilot study, screening detects potentially serious heart conditions in healthy children
Date:3/17/2011

A pilot study in healthy children and adolescents shows that it is feasible to screen for undiagnosed heart conditions that increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Adding a 10-minute electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to a history and physical examination identified unsuspected cases of potentially serious heart conditions.

Although more research is needed, the preliminary results suggest that a relatively low-cost screening might help identify children who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, possibly preventing childhood death.

"In the United States, the current American Heart Association guidelines recommend screening only competitive athletes, not all children, using history and physical examination alone," said the study leader, Victoria L. Vetter, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric cardiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She noted that in Italy and Japan, which have compulsory screening of all athletes or schoolchildren, researchers have found that adding an ECG to the history and physical increases the likelihood of detecting children at risk for SCA.

"Our pilot study evaluated the feasibility of adding an ECG to cardiac screening of healthy school-aged children," Vetter added. The Children's Hospital research team published their study on March 15 in the American Heart Journal.

In children, sudden cardiac arrest is caused by structural or electrical abnormalities in the heart that frequently cause no symptoms and may go undiagnosed. It results in an estimated 100 to 1,000 or more annual deaths in childhood in the U.S. The current study evaluated 400 healthy subjects, 5 to 19 years old, recruited from Children's Hospital's Care Network. The researchers screened the subjects using a medical family history questionnaire, a physical examination, an ECG and an echocardiogram.

The study team identified previously undiagnosed cardiac abnormalities in 23 subjects, and hypertension in an additi
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Contact: Joey McCool Ryan
McCool@email.chop.edu
267-426-6070
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Source:Eurekalert

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