It’s heart wrenching when young athletes die of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Last week the death of Wes Leonard, a Michigan high school star athlete, was especially poignant since he collapsed right after making the game-winning shot. This sort of tragedy occurs about one hundred times each year in America. That’s a lot of sadness. The obvious question is: Could these deaths be prevented? Let’s start with what actually happens.
Most cases of sudden death in young people occur as a result of either hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an abnormal thickening of heart muscle, or long QT syndrome (LQTS), a mostly inherited disease of the heart’s electrical system. Both HCM and LQTS predispose the heart to ventricular fibrillation — electrical chaos of the pumping chamber of the heart. The adrenaline surges of athletic competition increase the odds of this chaos. Unfortunately, like heart disease often does, both these ailments can strike without warning.
Sudden death is sad enough by itself, but what makes it even worse is that both these ailments are mostly detectable with two simple painless tests: The ECG and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). Let’s get these kids ECGs and echos then. “Git ‘er dun,” you might say.
On the surface the solution seems simple: Implement universal cardiac screening of all young athletes. And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this way. You could even boast the support of Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News and the entire country of Italy, where all athletes get ECGs and echos before competing. But America isn’t Italy, and things aren’t as simple as Fox News likes to suggest. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
Just admit it: Deep in your heart you’ve always wanted to be an emergency medical technician, if at least for a few moments. If you’re located in San Ramon Valley, California, you can now live that dream: The local fire department has released an iPhone app that will alert you of any emergency activity in the area.
The well thought-out application will send out a push notification to users who have indicated that they are proficient in CPR whenever there is a cardiac emergency nearby. In addition, the closest public-access automated external defibrillator (AED) is located by the app. Current response status of dispatched units are shown and incident locations are pinpointed on an interactive map. There’s even a log of recent incidents including a photo gallery. For the old-school ham and scanner lads, it’s possible to listen in on live emergency radio traffic. The app is available for free.
The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation has held a “You Can Save a Life” video awareness contest, in which participants were invited to submit videos that raise awareness of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The 2010 grand prize winner is “Paramedic Rap” by 911 Emergency ROCKsponse, a college team that uses humor to get your attention about sudden cardiac arrest:
Anyone who has flown long-distance flights has heard the call: “If there is a doctor on board, please identify yourself to a flight attendant.” But it’s impossible to understand how that call induces the urge to flee to the lavatory and hide unless you are one of those unfortunate few who are on the hook, which is to say that you are qualified to respond, but you really really don’t want to.
“But Gee,” I can hear you think, “Aren’t you an ER doctor? Isn’t this sort of thing second nature to you? Don’t you revel in the adrenaline and glory?” Well, yes. But. First of all, there is the performance anxiety thing. I’m used to working with a very small audience. In Economy class, there may be 300 people watching me try to do my thing, and I’m just not used to that many people being in the exam room — and I know they are very interested in what’s going on. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*
First Aid Corps, an organization working on helping the public respond to sudden cardiac arrests, has unveiled an iPhone app that can pinpoint the location of the closest automatic external defibrillator (AED) within seconds.
Currently the database is just beginning to fill up but First Aid Corps has partnered with The Extraordinaries, a volunteer organization, to have people locate and photograph AED’s in their community.
The app is free and you can download it and get started mapping AED’s and maybe help save someone’s life.
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