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Entries in Congenital Heart Defects (4)

Sunday
Mar102013

Sports Physicals Aren’t a Magic Bullet for Saving Teen Athletes’ Lives

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It is always a tragedy when a young athlete dies while playing their sport due to an undiagnosed ailment. Unfortunately, a new study casts doubt on the idea that these deaths can all be prevented by mandatory sports physicals and testing.

Researchers in Minnesota consulted the U.S. National Registry of Sudden Death in Young Athletes which compiles the details 2,588 sports-related teenage deaths. They found 44 instances of teenagers who were found to have aortic stenosis or other aortic disorders, birth defects that carry risk of sudden death with rigorous exercise.

Of these, 32 had undergone sports physicals and been tested and were still cleared to play by a doctor. This suggests that despite good intentions, not all deaths can be prevented by easily accessible tests like an EKG. This is not to say that they are useless, but that they are certainly not foolproof.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb062013

Runner with Congenital Heart Condition Needs Surprise Open Heart Surgery

Courtesy Jane Lee(NEW YORK) -- Like many relatively recent college graduates, Jane Lee wasn't always on top of her doctor's appointments.  She was young and had just run a half marathon, so she assumed she was in good health.

But as Lee trained for her first full marathon alongside her fraternal twin sister, she realized something was wrong.  Her sister was able to run longer and faster than Lee despite their equally long training hours.

"In the last two years, my mileage was increasing a lot, and that was when I started noticing," Lee said.  "She was running a lot faster and a lot farther.  I thought, maybe it's because I have a heart condition."

When Lee was a baby, her mother noticed she sometimes turned blue, prompting doctors to diagnose her with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of fallot.  Lee was born with a hole in her heart, which caused the oxygen levels in her blood to drop.

Lee had a surgery to fix the hole and subsequently had a normal childhood in Los Angeles, full of sports and the occasional check-up at the cardiologist's office.  But when she moved to New York City after college, finding a general practitioner took a back seat to everything else in her life until she was about 25, when she noticed her athletic progress had slowed.

So Lee eventually found a general practitioner, who referred her to Dr. Doff McElhinney, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.  McElhinney ordered a stress test, an echocardiogram and several other tests before Lee got a diagnosis: She needed a pulmonary valve replacement, which is open heart surgery.

And she needed it soon.

"I really wasn't expecting that because I had been so healthy," she said.  "I wasn't that winded during the half [marathon]."

Congenital heart defects occur in about 1 percent of live births, McElhinney said, adding that their severity can vary greatly.  A congenital heart defect, or congenital heart disease, just refers to a heart abnormality the patient was born with.  Some congenital heart defects require surgery within a few days of birth, but others can go unnoticed until middle age.

McElhinney said patients in their 20s and 30s who, like Lee, had congenital heart problems and surgeries as children often failed to continue seeing cardiologists until they get to him.

"People who had surgery in the 1980s and then went to college may have been told when they were young that they're not going to need anything done," he said.  "They went off to college and somehow got out of the care of a cardiologist."

Although the surgeries to correct heart malformations were (and are still) very good, that doesn't mean they're permanent repairs, McElhinney said.  Replacement valves, for instance, don't last forever.

Problems that can arise from an untreated heart defect include pulmonary hypertension, which can cut off blood to the lungs; cardiac arrhythmias, which are irregular heart beats; an infection of the heart lining; and congestive heart failure.

The American Heart Association issued a statement in 2011 about best practices for moving children with congenital heart conditions from their pediatric cardiologists to adult cardiologists because of this very problem.

"Unfortunately, in the absence of structured programs to guide this transition, there is often delayed or inappropriate care, improper timing of the transfer of care, and undue emotional and financial stress on the patients, their families and the health care system," said the full article in Circulation, the medical journal of the American Heart Association.  "At its worst, and as frequently happens now, patients are lost to appropriate follow-up."

Although children with congenital heart conditions too often died young, scientific advancements have led the number of adults with congenital heart conditions in the United States to exceed more than one million, according to the American Heart Association.  However, less than 30 percent of them see the appropriate heart specialist.

As such, the American Heart Association recommends beginning the process of transferring adolescents from pediatric to adult cardiologists when they are between 12 and 14 years old.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb072011

Two Percent of Newborns Screened for Congenital Heart Defects

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CROMWELL, Conn.) -- A new study suggests that a majority of newborns are not screened for congenital heart defects (CHDs), the number one killer of infants and newborns.

According to a survey released Monday by Little Hearts Inc., just 1.8 percent of newborns are screened for the defects. The study also found that 58.7 percent of babies eventually diagnosed with a CHD were not screened for the defects at birth.

"Some hospitals in some states have adopted CHD screening for newborns, but we need to see screening implemented nationwide," said Lenore Cameron, president and executive director of Little Hearts. "We've seen too many babies die as a result of a CHD --babies whose lives might have been saved if only they were diagnosed sooner, which is possible with a simple pulse-oximetry test that can produce results within minutes."
 
Little Hearts announced the results of their survey just as CHD Awareness Week kicked off Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov222010

AHA: Deaths Caused by Congenital Heart Defects Continue to Decline

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Congenital heart defects were the underlying cause of 27,960 deaths in the U.S., based on data from death certificates.

But new research findings say the U.S. death rate from congenital heart defects dropped 24 percent from 1999 to 2006, according to a report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers in the study found it difficult to determine the reason for the decline, but suspect the advancements in technology and better medical care for infants and children with heart defects may play a role.

The report stated that most deaths (48 percent) caused by congenital heart defects were among infants and children.  As more children survive into adulthood with these heart defects, they are often switching from pediatric cardiologists to adult specialists.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio