Youth Heart Screenings Can Prevent Future Tragedies

Every year, students in Michigan die from sudden cardiac arrest due to abnormal heart structure or abnormal rhythms. These types of abnormalities usually go undetected without a cardiac screening.

The screenings are also not typically included in the yearly sports physicals that Michigan student-athletes are required to complete. The non-invasive test uses ultrasound waves to create detailed pictures of the heart, allowing cardiologists to detect heart defects like murmurs and thickening of the heart walls that can cause deadly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The best and most important time to have your student’s heart checked for potentially life-threatening disorders is between the ages 13-18, once they have reached high school and after the onset of puberty. It is also important to have the screenings every year during this time because issues can develop and reveal themselves at any point.

Jennifer Shea, Beaumont Hospital Healthy Heart Check Event Coordinator, organizes quarterly heart screening clinics through Beaumont Health System. Students pre-register for the no-cost Healthy Heart Check Clinic. They also complete a health history form before the non-invasive electrocardiogram (EKG) test and ultrasound procedure is administered.

Once students complete their heart screening, they are given one of three recommendations:

  • Clearance to continue with sports activity
  • Permission to continue with sports pending a follow-up visit with a primary care doctor and cardiologist
  • An order to stop sports activity and follow-up with a cardiologist.

The clinic also provides parents and school personnel with a step-by-step tutorial on how to operate an Automated External Defibrillator or AED, a portable device that checks heart rhythm and sends an electronic shock to a heart that has stopped beating.

“At our last screening, of the 422 children we screened, 10 percent required follow-up visits and four students were told to stop high-intensity sports activity. We have also had cases where screenings have detected other issues that we weren’t even looking for,” says Shea.

While the Healthy Heart Clinics are held at no charge to registrants, you can also schedule an appointment at Ernst Cardiovascular Center at Beaumont, Royal Oak for $25.

Parents are also encouraged to ask their student’s school if an operational AED machine is accessible on the campus and if there is AED trained personnel, since the first three minutes into a cardiac arrest episode are the most crucial when using the device.

As parents, we take every measure to protect our children for as long as we can. Make a smart decision to have your child’s heart screened. For more information on local upcoming clinic events, check out these links and contact your local medical campus:

Photo credit: COD Newsroom (feature)

 

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