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Screening Teens' Hearts Could Be Lifesaving
Date:5/5/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Checking the hearts of teenagers, athletes and non-athletes alike, could save thousands of lives, a new study suggests.

The heart check recommended is an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the electrical activity in the heart and identifies those at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

"I think we should do this testing and find the kids who are at risk for sudden death and potentially save their lives," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Joseph Marek, founder and medical director of the Midwest Heart Foundation in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

ECGs are especially important for teens who are going to take part in sports, he said.

"To me as a parent, this is a no-brainer," Marek said. "I think doctors should be recommending ECGs to their teen patients."

Not everyone agrees, however. One of the main objections to doing extensive ECG testing has been cost, but Marek said the tests in his study cost less than $10 each. For the study, his team raised money for the testing through community donations.

Marek said that some also feared that testing teens would swamp the medical system because the rate of abnormal heart rhythms among young adults was thought to be in the 10 percent to 40 percent range. But, he said, "our study shows that number is well under 3 percent," so that idea "doesn't hold water."

"ECG testing of young adults is certainly feasible," he said.

Each year in the United States, more than 250,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest, including an estimated 2,000 young adults, according to the study.

But, according to Marek, "sudden cardiac death in young adults can be identified before they have a catastrophe in a cost-effective manner by doing ECG testing."

For an ECG test, small patches called electrodes are put on the skin in several places on the body and attached by wires to a machin
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