Memorial Hermann, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and the Houston Rockets are teaming up to proactively treat what has become, in recent years, the number one killer among our youth athletes - sudden cardiac arrest. HEARTS™, which stands for Houston Early Age Risk Testing and Screening, is a study and program designed to detect any abnormal heart conditions that can cause the heart to arrest.
Less than one in 10 U.S. student-athletes who suffer sudden cardiac arrest survives, according to a 2008 study in the HeartRhythm Journal. Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. It usually causes death if it's not treated within minutes.
HEARTS™ is a free, four-step program that includes a self-administered questionnaire, cardiovascular physical exam, 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) of sixth-grade students to detect potential heart problems.
"It's around sixth grade that kids become more active and often get into sports on a more serious level," said John Higgins, MD, assistant professor of medicine at UT Medical School at Houston and director of exercise physiology at the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute. Higgins is also the principal investigator of the study and pilot program.
If a cardiac problem is identified, students will be referred to pediatric cardiologist, Gurur Biliciler-Denktas, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UT Medical School and treated at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital.
"The Houston Rockets are proud to partner with Memorial Hermann and UT Medical School at Houston in launching this unprecedented and innovative HEARTS initiative," said Rockets CEO Tad Brown. "We join these outstanding leaders in the medical community to spearhead efforts towards reducing, and hopefully eliminating, sudden heart-related tragedies with proper testing and treatment. We are also delighted that the initial testing will be done through our partnership with HISD and the Kashmere Feeder System."
Based upon the study information collected, the HEARTS™ team could further improve the screening process, and expand this program to screen all sixth grade school children in the greater Houston area, HEARTS™ over Houston. The HEARTS ™ team would then develop a state-wide program to provide hearts screenings for children throughout Texas, HEARTS™ over Texas.
"Students who participate will receive a free physical examination, specialized cardiac examinations and any follow-up that's needed at no cost to students and families," said HISD's Health and Medical Services Director Evelyn Henry. "We want to provide early screening and help save lives."
In this first phase, the HEARTS™ medical team will visit five HISD schools and screen approximately 1,500 students between May and December 2009. The participating schools include: Burbank Middle School, Hogg Middle School, Key Middle School, Long Middle School and Fleming Middle School.
"With this screening in place, the incidence of sudden cardiac death among Houston school children may be reduced," Higgins said. "At the end of the pilot program, we will report our findings and work with Memorial Hermann and the Houston Rockets to grow the program and offer screenings to all children in the greater Houston area."
For more information on HEARTS, please visit www.utcardiovascular.com/hearts/.