PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) — A just-released Philadelphia study shows how the hidden heart disease that recently killed several young athletes could be prevented.

3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on how local doctors are trying to catch problems before it’s too late.

The study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia showed there’s an easy way to screen children for heart problems.

It’s a simple heart test that most healthy children never have. 16-year-old Andrew Berger, of Narberth, is getting an electrocardiogram, or EKG.

“It’s painless. And it helps my doctor understand the rhythms of my heart,” said Andrew.

Undetected heart conditions can be deadly, as we’ve seen recently with the sudden cardiac death of Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old high school basketball player in Michigan.

“It is a significant problem,” said Dr. Victoria Vetter, a Pediatric Cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She says finding undiagnosed heart problems will save lives. She led a study screening 400 healthy children with an electrocardiogram.

“It can detect an abnormality of the heart rhythm or it can detect an abnormality in the size of the heart, if the heart muscle is thickened or enlarged,” said Dr. Vetter.

The research found 10 of the children had a serious problem that could have resulted in death.
The Berger’s think screening children is important.

“If it will save your life, why not?” said Andrew.

“I think it’s a very important way of finding out if there’s something wrong with your child,” said Elyse Berger, Andrew’s mother.

Dr. Vetter says more research is needed to determine if EKGs for kids should become a standard of care.

The test costs up to $100, and is currently not covered by insurance for healthy people. So there’s a critical financial issue with these screenings.

Check out CHOP’s Youth Heart Watch website for upcoming free screenings. As they are scheduled they will be posted:

CHOP’S Youth Heart Watch
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cardiac Center

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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