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Who should have cardiac screening?

In Ireland an estimated 5,000 sudden cardiac deaths occur annually. Many people ask the question, who should be screened? The Irish Heart Foundation's Medical Director and consultant cardiologist, Dr Angie Brown, answers this important question.

“There are approximately 5,000 sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) in Ireland annually and between 70 to 100 of these deaths occur in people under the age of 40 years old. The majority of SCDs occur from late middle age onwards as a result of coronary heart disease. Over the past few years there has been increasing awareness of sudden death in young adults, including sudden deaths in high profile athletes. The reasons for SCD in younger people include pre-existing cardiac abnormalities, infection, trauma and drugs."

“To reduce the number of sudden cardiac deaths, we need full implementation of the recommendations of the SCD Task Force report to improve the detection and assessment of those at high risk of Sudden Cardiac Death - this includes screening of first degree relatives of individuals dying of sudden cardiac death below 40 years of age as well as primary and secondary prevention of those with a high risk of heart attack."

“Screening should also occur in individuals with worrying symptoms of exertional chest pain, unexplained blackouts or breathlessness. These high risk individuals should be prioritised and many of these individuals will be referred to the specialised sudden cardiac death screening clinics such as the CRY clinic in Tallaght Hospital and the Family Heart Screening clinic in Mater Heart House in Dublin."

“The GAA now recommends cardiac screening including ECG for all members aged 14 and over. They have invested €180,000 and have an arrangement with a number of doctors. The FAI has developed a cardiac screening questionnaire for their players. These are steps in the right direction but we are still lacking full implementation of the national strategy."

“Despite screening some individuals will have a cardiac abnormality that has not been picked up so it is vitally important that all sports stadia, sports grounds and other places where large groups come together should have ready access to fully trained first responders (people trained in CPR) and an AED (automated external defibrillator), with CPR and early defibrillation there is a much higher chance of patients surviving cardiac arrest.”

August 2019
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