Ultrasound can find hidden heart defects in teens









Ultrasound can find hidden heart defects in teens

The tragic headlines grab parents’ and coaches’ attention… an otherwise healthy teen athlete, with no warning or symptoms, collapses and dies during a football practice or after a run or pick-up basketball game. A previously undiagnosed heart disorder has caused Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD).

The #1 cause of SCD in the U.S. is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a relatively rare genetic defect affecting 1 in 500 people, usually young people.
However, SCD is preventable by taking three important steps, say health experts:
  • Schedule an echocardiogram. This one-time heart ultrasound is especially important for student athletes.
  • Take your teen in for an annual physical exam. The heart screen identifies most, but not all, heart abnormalities.
  • Share complete family medical history for physicals and heart screening. This information can help medical personnel look for otherwise hidden health problems.
An echocardiogram or echo is a non-invasive ultrasound in which a technologist uses a small probe on the chest to take a picture of the heart. The heart screen takes about 10 minutes. High-frequency sound waves produce images that show both the structure of the heart and blood flow. A cardiologist “reads” the images.
While an echo usually is prohibitively expensive at $800 to $1,500, Heart Screens for Teens provides the heart scans to student athletes in the metro Atlanta area for just $58. The scans are conducted by a technologist with state-of-the-art equipment, and then reviewed by a cardiologist. Abnormal tests prompt specific recommendations for medical follow-up.

Mickey King, president and CEO of Digirad UltraScan Solutions in Suwanee, founded the nonprofit Heart Screens for Teens in response to the 2003 SCD death of Chattahoochee High football player Ryan Boslet. King’s scanning equipment, idle on the weekends, is used for the Saturday Heart Screen events like Kyle Ahrens' project. Cardiologists volunteer to work on the project, keeping costs low.