Taking Care of Young Hearts

Students at Fleming Middle School in northeast Houston are screened for underlying heart conditions. The program by Memorial Hermann Hospital and the University of Texas Medical School in Houston is designed to detect potential problems that could be fatal if undetected. Pat Hernandez has more.

About 140 6th graders at Fleming were screened in a four step program. It includes a self administered questionnaire, a cardiovascular physical exam, a cardiac ultra sound and an EKG, or electrocadiogram.  It’s part of HEARTS, which stands for Houston Early Age Risk Testing and Screening.

Dr. John HigginsDr. John Higgins is an assistant professor of medicine at UT Medical School at Houston and director of exercise physiology at Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute. He says the 15-minute screening is effective.

“Yes, by the end of the screening we will clear them, or not clear them. If they have something on the screening that we want to investigate further, we will then at a later date, have them come in to the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute and have further testing.”

Higgins says the test detected abnormalities in students at Key Middle School earlier this year. Three children were diagnosed with hypertension and seven had an underlying heart condition. Two of those needed surgery.
Rene SuchowiekyRene Suchowieky lost her daughter Nicole to cardiac arrest 11-years ago.

“If she had had a prescreening, maybe they would have seen something.”

Studies show that less than one in 10-student-athletes in the U.S. who suffer sudden cardiac arrest survives. It is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. In memory of her daughter, Suchowiecky hopes more schools will offer screenings to reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac deaths in Houston school children.