I came across an article in last week’s online edition of the Houston Chronicle, entitled “Sixth-graders’ heart screenings shock researchers,” and I thought you might find it interesting.
There has been a fair amount of research devoted to the issue of pre-participation physical examinations for school-aged children who want to play school sports. The goal of these efforts has been to identify students who are at particularly high risk for cardiac or other events….and either provide necessary treatment or exclude the children from participating.
A group of investigators in Houston, led by John Higgins, M.D., has begun to screen 1,500 middle school age children–all students, not just athletes–for heart disease using a 20-minute screening procedure. The students underwent a health history, physical exam, ECG, and echocardiogram.
After evaluating the first 94 students at a single middle school, the investigators were surprised to find that 7 students had significant heart disease….and 2 required surgery for treatment of their condition! Some of these conditions would typically produce no outward signs or symptoms….and the first indication of a problem could have been sudden death.
When it is completed, this study will be the most comprehensive look at the benefits of a cardiac screening program for U.S. children and I suspect it will influence the way we go about pre-participation screening for school-aged athletes.