The most basic heart screening includes an electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG or EKG, can detect issues in the heart that can be missed in a standard physical. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about EKGs and heart screening.
A simple heart screening can help detect problems before they become major medical issues. While we recommend all student athletes get an ECG, you should definitely be screened if you:
• compete in high impact sports that increases your heart rate for an extended period
• have a family history indicating that there is a heart disease risk
• get dizziness during athletics
• experience fainting spells or weakness while participating
• get shortness of breath that does not clear quickly
• get chest pain while participating
Cardiac screening can detect a variety of potentially catastrophic genetic diseases. The simplest level of testing is an ECG, which looks at the electrical signals of the heart. An ECG involves placing electrodes on the chest around the heart to record those signals. The test is easy, painless, non- invasive, and takes less than 5 minutes. It does not involve needles, blood work, radiation exposure or sedation.
On average 97% of all those screened have a normal ECG and are considered at low risk for cardiac issues. In less than 3%, results are inconclusive or suggest something that requires further testing. Most often an Echocardiogram (Echo) is recommended. The Echo is used to get a picture of the heart similar to an ultrasound to look at a baby during pregnancy. The Echo looks for valve and vein structure, muscle thickness, and proper operation of the heart. Most rarely, but most importantly, our statistics show that 1 in 1000 of those we screen will be flagged as high risk with a severe abnormality on their ECG.
Yes. The interpreted ECGs will be returned to the school within 3 business days with a designation of low risk, follow-up or high risk, as well as information about particular ECG findings, when applicable.
Every ECG is read by board-certified Cardiologists who are among the most experienced and qualified doctors in the country. Their experience means more accurate interpretations.
An abnormal ECG will be flagged for follow up, which means additional testing is needed to see what is causing that abnormality – think of it as a yellow caution light. It will include documentation on what the potential problem might be. Even if your child is flagged for a follow-up, he or she can continue participating in sports and other activities. You’ll just need to have your child visit a Cardiologist within 3 months for follow up.
If your child is flagged as high risk, it is like a red traffic light. He or she should not participate in sports or high-energy activities in any way (practice, games, scrimmages, etc.) until he or she has seen a specialist and received clearance or treatment. If you don’t have one already, we will offer the contact information of Cardiologists in your area.
It’s just $20 per student. A typical doctor’s appointment with ECG normally costs $150 and up, we area happy to offer families this important heart screening at a huge savings.
The annual physical exam asks family history questions, and requires a doctor to listen to the student’s heart with a stethoscope. Studies have shown that this is just 1% effective in catching heart issues. An ECG can detect up to 95% of the conditions that cause SCA.
Cardiac screening should be part of a physical at least once while in middle school and once in high school. If your child is considered low risk then those are the only two times recommended to get an ECG before adulthood.
No, arrangements are made for privacy. Boys will remove their shirts. Girls should wear a regular bra, which will not need to be removed.
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