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Teen Athletes Not Properly Screened for Heart Risks

Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 11:11 AM

Doctors aren't doing enough to identify heart problems among active adolescents, according to a report presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting.

A new study has found that less than 6 percent of doctors follow AHA screening guidelines. Sure, physicians listen to a young patient's heartbeat and note blood pressure, researchers say, but they often fail to ask important questions about heart health such as if there is a family history of heart problems or early deaths, and whether teens experience chest pain during exercise or unexplained fainting. About half the physicians surveyed didn't even know the guidelines existed

Questions about chest pain and fainting are especially important, says Dr.
Gaurav Arora, associate director of electrophysiology at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Those are red flags in young athletes," Dr. Arora said.

The study was based on surveys of family practice physicians in the state of Washington. About 72 percent of pediatricians and 56 percent of family practitioners returned the surveys, says Dr. Nicolas Madsen, a cardiology fellow at Seattle Children's Hospital of the University of Washington.

Some 7 million teenagers play high school sports, says Dr. Madsen. There are roughly 175 to 233 deaths each year among high school athletes, studies suggest.



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