STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
AUSTIN — The Heart Hospital of Austin is once again offering free heart screenings for students ages 14-18 participating in extracurricular activities during the upcoming school year.
The screenings, which require appointments, are 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 19, at the hospital, 3801 N. Lamar Blvd. Go to stdavids.com/youngheart or call (512) 478-3627 to make an appointment. A questionnaire must be completed by a parent or a guardian upon arrival.
“This is very cost-effective and completely inexpensive for families,” said Dr. David Kessler, an electrophysiologist at the hospital. “It’s a community service we want to provide.”
The screening will include a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) and a limited two-dimensional echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, to detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for it to pump blood.
HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes and a serious genetic heart condition, according to medical reports. One in 500 athletes are affected, often without warning or symptoms.
“This is to identify potential cardiovascular problems before a young person embarks on an athletic career,” Kessler said. “As kids embark on athletic careers, there are ones who get to college and will get screened for some genetic conditions.”
Kessler said the staff’s goal is to catch potential problems much earlier. That’s why the hospital is offering the free screenings. By catching them early, there’s a greater potential of treating and fixing the problems, he added.
“The reasons to look early is to identify curable problems early,” he said. “This gives us a tremendous insight into risk and significant cardiovascular problems.”
The two tests take about five minutes each to complete and are painless and non-invasive. A cardiologist will review results with the athlete and his or her family after the screenings are finished.
“There are no needles. They are painless the whole time,” Kessler said. “You’ll spend more time standing in line than being examined.”
Visit stdavids.com/youngheart for more information.