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Standing up for athletes at risk
Date:4/21/2011

When a high school athlete drops dead, the rare but fatal condition called "sudden death syndrome" dominates the headlines. For reasons that remain a mystery to scientists, some young athletes especially young males begin to experience an unusual heart arrhythmia. With over-exertion, their hearts stop pumping, leading to sudden death.

Until now, screening for the hard-to-detect syndrome has been prohibitively expensive. But cardiologist Dr. Sami Viskin of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine has developed a new test that's already being used by doctors in America and may have already saved lives.

The "Viskin Test" is based on the researcher's discovery that almost imperceptible abnormalities between normal and at-risk patients could be suddenly be made more visible using a simple bedside test that requires a subject to suddenly stand up. When standing, at-risk patients will experience a measurable difference in a portion of their heart rate called the QT interval. The difference can be detected by an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Dr. Viskin described his research in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The long and short of the QT test

"Current screening methods offer no real therapeutic value, because very few people who experience arrhythmias, up to 20 percent of the population, will ever die from sudden death," Dr. Viskin says. "Moreover, there is such a significant overlap between what's normal and abnormal on an ECG that we need additional screening parameters. This test, when done on people with strong symptoms, can really give us doctors a yardstick to compare those at risk for sudden death syndrome to those who would otherwise go on to live a healthy life."

According to Dr. Viskin, the QT interval shortens when the heart rate accelerates, but this response is not instantaneous. In the study, he tested whether sudden changes in a body as
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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