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Survey Finds Nine Teens with Serious Heart Issues, and They Knew Nothing About Them

Nine teens with serious heart issues

Nine teenagers have been diagnosed with potentially life-threatening heart conditions that would have likely gone unnoticed for several years had it not been for a recently concluded research project.

The project, called Beat It, saw a group of 15 doctors screen 2,708 15-year-old children from a sample of around 40 State, Church, and independent schools across the island. It focused on identifying teenagers at risk of sudden cardiac death.

The electrocardiogram tests, commonly known as ECGs, and a detailed questionnaire led the medical team to flag 102 students that required further tests and medical investigation.

“There were a variety of issues, be it symptoms, family history of heart disease, or irregularities noted in the ECG that led the team to organise more tests and monitoring in some cases,” said Mark Abela, the cardiology higher specialist trainee doctor who led the project.

Exercise stress tests, blood tests, cardiac MRIs, ECG monitoring and other investigations were ordered depending on the initial findings. Some students are now being followed up in different specialised clinics, some will have a routine follow-up in a year’s time, and the rest were reassured that all was well, Dr Abela said.

He went on to explain that of the 102 flagged students, the researchers identified nine teenagers with heart conditions linked to “sudden cardiac death”.

Dr. Abela said that the ratio was more or less equivalent to findings in international studies, with one case of significant pathology present in every 300 adolescents screened.

He said that while other research projects of this nature had been conducted abroad, it was the first time it had been done in Malta, and the first time it had been done nationwide in any country.

Dr. Abela said that cases of sudden cardiac death in young Maltese individuals were scattered across the years but this did not mean they could be dismissed.

Young athletes, he said, were known to be at higher risk because of the excessive exercise regimes they pursue.

However, it was the high prevalence of obesity, together with Maltese adolescents’ inactive lifestyles that most increased the risk for heart disease in general, with coronary artery disease still the number one contributor to sudden cardiac death in all age groups.

Dr. Abela said that while the prevalence of sudden cardiac death remained a rare phenomenon, this was no reason to ignore it.

Routine compulsory screening which, research shows, drastically decreases death rates, was an important factor in the battle against heart disease in young, presumably fit and healthy teens.

Dr. Abela said the study was supported by the Research Innovation and Development Trust together with the Malta Heart Foundation.

Story Credit https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181107/local/survey-finds-nine-teens-with-serious-heart-issues.693650

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