The heart is one of our most important organs, yet it is often overlooked. When children are born, the oxygen level in their blood is measured with a pulse oximeter. This exam can reveal a congenital heart defect. After that, we use a stethoscope to listen to their heart every year. That’s it.
For an organ that beats over 115,000 times per day, distributes blood and oxygen to every part of our body, that's it.
Sudden cardiac arrest takes the lives of thousands of children every year. It is the #1 cause of death for student athletes. It kills more adults than lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS, combined. But, that's it.
It is not enough. Simon's Heart believes that all students should have their hearts screened. It should be a cardiac standard of care. And it should be a free heart test.
Research shows that cardiac screenings – when coupled with a good medical history and physical exam – are much more effective at detecting heart conditions than a history and physical alone. A heart screening can do more to prevent sudden cardiac arrest than just questions and listening to the heart.
To find youth heart screenings in the Greater Philadelphia, click here.
To find youth heart screenings around the country, click here. There are some great organizations around the country protecting hearts and saving lives.
What are the conditions found at heart screenings?
There are two types of heart conditions – structural and electrical. Most of the time, they are congential, or genetic. However, sometimes conditions develop as a result of an outside factor, like a virus. Myocarditis is one of these conditions.
A structural defect prevents the heart from working properly – it’s too big or the parts are in the wrong place. The more common structural conditions are anomalous coronary artery, arrythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), left ventricular non-compaction, and Marfan syndrome.
An electrical defect interrupts the heart’s rhythm. The more common electrical conditions are Brugada syndrome, complete heart block, Long QT syndrome, and Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome (WPW).
We don't find commotio cordis, but you should know about it. It is the one condition that has no warning signs and is not genetic. It occurs from a blow to the chest by a ball or other blunt object. It strikes at the exact wrong time causing the heart to go into a fatal heartbeat (arrhythmia).
Most conditions can be detected with an electrocardiogram (ECG), but many of the structural conditions can only be diagnosed with an echocardiogram (Echo). The treatment varies by condition and severity. Many can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes. The more severe cases may be treated with a pacemaker, implanted defibrillator (ICD), or corrective surgery.
What happens during a cardiac screening?
Our heart screenings include a thorough medical and family history, physical exam and an ECG. "ECG" stands for an electrocardiogram, which is a common test that looks for an irregularity in the rhythm of your heart. It can also be abbreviated as EKG.
About ten percent of the students will also get an echocardiogram based on family history or an abnormal ECG.
Our screenings are intended for students who have never received an ECG exam or been seen by a cardiologist. The screening is not a substitute for regular visits to your family doctor. Be sure to share the results of the free ECG screening with your physician.
Unlike some other types of preventive care, like certain cancer screenings or vaccinations, heart screenings are not standardized. At the moment, we believe that our protocol is the best combination of efficiency and effectiveness. To learn about other screening models and protocols, click here.
What Happens at a Heart Screening:
Complete a short online medical history form.
We’ll check your blood pressure, height, and weight.
We'll conduct an ECG. Stickers with small electrodes will be placed on your chest, legs, and arms to measure the activity of your heart.
Based on your ECG or medical history, you may receive another test called an echocardiogram, or echo. This test takes a picture of your heart, like a sonogram.
Using all the information gathered during your cardiac screening, our cardiologists will let you know if you should get a full cardiac evaluation or consult with your pediatrician.