The Houston Independent School District and the Center for Coronary Artery Anomalies at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) will partner to provide voluntary screenings for HISD students in an effort to detect congenital heart abnormalities that can cause sudden cardiac death.
The screenings will take place at selected HISD middle schools over the next two years using a specially built THI mobile imaging unit with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. With parental permission, each student will be screened using both the MRI and electrocardiogram (ECG) equipment. The process will take about 15 minutes, is non-invasive, and does not use any needles or medication. There will be no cost to parents for the screenings.
The program is expected to begin before the end of the year, starting with Welch Middle School.
“This very important outreach effort and partnership between HISD and the Texas Heart Institute will not only benefit our students and their families, but it will save lives,” said HISD Superintendent Terry B. Grier.
“Too often, we hear about a student athlete who dies suddenly in the middle of a game or at a team practice,” said Dr. James T. Willerson, THI President and Medical Director. “It’s a problem with tragic consequences, and we want to do more to address it. Our methods for detection are the most accurate known.”
The screenings will help to diagnose cardiac abnormalities like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM, which can cause abnormal heart rhythms. HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in children, especially young athletes. Sudden cardiac death is largely preventable through proper screenings and early detection.
THI will use the data they collect to help learn more about heart abnormalities which affect primarily young people, and study their prevalence in the broad population. The project is being underwritten by a $5 million donation by the Kinder Foundation, founded by Houston philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder and with support from Houston-based Cameron.
“Rich and I are delighted to support a great organization like the Texas Heart Institute in tackling a serious medical problem that exists in our community and throughout America,” said Nancy Kinder, President of the Kinder Foundation. “We hope this effort will pay long-term dividends in improving the health of our students over the coming years.”