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Highland Offers Free Heart Exams to Students

Monday, January 24, 2011

Highland Hospital cardiologists will provide local student-athletes with free screenings for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of sudden death in athletes. Students from Fairport, Penfield and Webster school districts will be tested from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 at Penfield Family Medicine, 2212 Penfield Road, Suite 100.

Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy is the most common inherited heart defect, occurring in one out of every 500 people. High-profile athletes such as former Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis and former NCAA All-American Hank Gathers, as well as some high school athletes around the country, have died from the condition during competition. The cardiac abnormality restricts the flow of blood out of the heart and causes the heart to work harder. Physical activity can increase the risk of death in people who have the condition.

While the abnormality has no symptoms, it can easily be detected with an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart. Chief of Cardiology J. Chad Teeters, M.D., says the test is an opportunity to detect this and other potentially dangerous heart conditions.

"Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathyis one ofthe most dangerous things we could find," Dr. Teeters said. "But there are other congenital abnormalities that could be identified, like congenital heart block or bicuspid aortic valve. The sooner they are discovered, the easier they are to treat and the less likely the condition will worsen."

In the United States, about 500,000 people have hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, but most are unaware of it. The prevalence of all congenital cardiovascular defects in the U.S. was between 650,000 people to 1.3 million people, according to the American Heart Association’s most recent data.

Prior to the echocardiogram, students will have their blood pressure checked and receive an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG checks the electrical activity of the heart and can find if the activity is normal or slow, fast or irregular.

"We are doing a workup in just about 15 minutes for each student," Dr. Teeters said. "In that amount of time, we hope to give parents peace of mind that their children will be safe on the playing field."

Students will get the results of their tests immediately. If a problem is found, the student’s primary care doctor will be notified. Participation is voluntary, but registration is required. Athletes younger than 18 years old need parental consent.

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