Stories about: Heart Center

From EKGs to echos: How broadly should kids be screened for heart problems?

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Every three days, a young athlete somewhere in the United States collapses and dies due to an undetected heart problem. It’s a tragedy that Gian Corrado, MD, who works in Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, has seen unfold firsthand. He was an undergraduate playing pick-up basketball when one of his teammates died suddenly on the court.

“It’s uncommon,” he says, “but it’s not so uncommon that it may not touch you. It happens, and we have no effective, efficient way to screen for it.”

There is a lot of interest in using heart screening in young athletes to reduce sudden death risk . The NCAA’s chief medical office recently suggested that it may be useful to routinely perform electrocardiograms (EKGs) and possibly other cardiac tests on some collegiate level athletes. A January 2016 opinion piece on this issue in the New York Times drew a lot of attention. Cardiac screening has also been proposed for other groups, such as children starting certain types of medications.

But there’s widespread debate in medical circles about such broad usage of EKGs. Why is this so controversial? If it’s such a valuable test, why doesn’t everyone get routine EKGs? …Read More

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Innovations and advancements: Honoring American Heart Month

We celebrate American Heart Month every February by doing what we do every day: treating a full spectrum of cardiac disorders and creating new ways to improve care.

This month, we also honor our patients, raise awareness around pediatric heart conditions and give thanks to Boston Children’s Heart Center faculty who are committed to finding solutions and serving every patient’s needs — no matter how complex the condition or situation.

Read a selection of five stories from the past year that highlight some of the Heart Center’s recent innovations and advancements. …Read More

It’s complicated: Identifying and treating high blood pressure in children

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High blood pressure is notoriously difficult to detect in children. And the consequences of undiagnosed hypertension can be severe.

Sustained high blood pressure can lead to target end-organ disease, meaning long term effects on:

  • the kidney, e.g. renal insufficiency and ultimately end stage kidney disease
  • the heart, e.g. left ventricular hypertrophy and ultimately congestive heart failure

In children, “the difference between normal and abnormal blood pressure can be small, depending on factors like age, height and weight,” says Sarah de Ferranti, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

A reading of 120/75 would be:

  • Stage two hypertension in a two-year old
  • Stage one hypertension in a seven-year old
  • Pre-hypertension in an 11-year old
  • Either normal or pre-hypertension in a 17-year old
  • A normal reading for an adult

“Not all kids with high blood pressure are overweight, but all overweight kids are at risk for high blood pressure,” adds de Ferranti. …Read More

Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) in children: It takes a village

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A closeup look at a ventricular assist device for children

Children with end-stage heart failure now have more options than ever before. When they have no other medical or surgical options to treat their heart failure,  they may be evaluated for a ventricular assist device, or VAD, that can help support their hearts until heart transplant.

As recently as 15 years ago, these devices were a rarity in pediatric hospitals — and they surely weren’t portable for use outside of the hospital setting! But thanks to new technologies that make living life at home and at school possible for children with VADs, an entire new field of care management is emerging.  The newer VADs are mechanical heart pumps implanted inside the body that are electrically powered, either by batteries or being plugged into the wall. …Read More