Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes

Editor’s Note:  This post originally appeared on the blog of Dr. Howard J. Luks. Dr. Luks  wrote this blog entry in collaboration with HCM expert Dr. Srihari S. Naidu of New York’s Westchester Medical Center. You can find the original post here.  You can find both Dr. Luks and Dr. Naidu on Twitter @hjluks and @SrihariNaiduMD.

Sudden cardiac death in young athletes continues with alarming frequency.  The most common cause of sudden death in the young athlete is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM.  Simply put, HCM means the heart muscle is bigger.  Many of us believe that bigger muscle means stronger muscle.  That is not always the case with the heart.  The heart is a mechanical pump with a complex arrangement of chambers which store the blood. How that pump works is controlled by a very complex electrical system.  Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can interfere with one or both of these critical functions of the heart and lead to sudden cardiac death.

This weekend we witnessed an athlete collapse in the middle of a basketball  game.  After playing a good portion of the first half, Tyvoris Solomon was on the bench and suddenly collapsed.  One person began fanning him, and the coach knelt down in prayer, luckily, others began chest compressions.   Mr Solomon’s heart was restarted and he was brought to a local hospital for further evaluation.

How does HCM lead to death in athletes?

Sudden cardiac arrest usually is due to extremely fast heart rates. This is called an arrhythmia.  An arrhythmia can occur because the electrical wiring in the heart is affected by the excessive muscle growth in HCM patients.  The most lethal forms of abnormal heart beating is coming from the bottom chambers of the heart. It is called ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.  In essence, the heart is going too fast to actually pull blood in and then move blood forward.  The body, getting no blood, begins to shut down, starting with the brain, which is why athletes collapse.  If not addressed quickly, our organs begin to die one by one, in a matter of minutes.

What is the cause of sudden death in athletes?

The majority of cases of sudden death in athletes are due to a heart muscle condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle is too thick.  Despite thickening, the heart can function quite normally for many years.  This explains why many of these kids are high performance athletes. HCM is usually an inherited disorder.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 500 people.  Not all athletes who have HCM will die because of it.  There are varying degrees of severity.

What are the symptoms of HCM?

Not all athletes with HCM will first present with sudden death.  Athletes of any age who complain of shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting or exercise intolerance should be evaluated by a cardiologist.  One or many of these signs might be present in athletes who suffer from HCM.  A heart suffering from HCM is very irritable… that means that its electrical system prone to develop these fast heart rates, often out of the blue but usually during or right after heavy exercise.

Can we screen for HCM?

Yes.  Any athlete with a family member who died at a young age, possible due to sports should be tested for HCM.  There are genetic screening tools as well as other tests that can be performed.  Not everyone who carries the genes in their DNA will develop HCM.  That ‘s why it is important to see a Cardiologist if you are concerned.  They will perform a physical exam, EKG and possible and ECHO.  A cardiac echo is an ultrasound that shows the heart. It can show you if part of the wall of the ventricles of heart are enlarged.

What you can do immediately after an athlete collapses

Proper training is critical. Sudden death is common enough that every school should have a protocol in place to deal with these situations.  Athletic Trainers are often very well versed in treating athletes who collapse on the court.  Every school must have a charged, and readily accessible AED or Automatic Electrical Defibrillator.   These devices will access the athletes heart rhythm and deliver the necessary shock to restart the heart.  Every Athletic Trainer should know precisely where their AED is when the games begin.

If you witness an athlete collapse, you should immediately assess their pulse. If absent you should immediately start CPR.  Every coach and parent of an athlete should have CPR training.  Do not stop CPR until personnel with an AED arrive on the scene.

Other causes of sudden cardiac death in athletes

Other causes include other types of heart muscle problems that don’t involve thickening. Generally these diseases involve inflammation or diffuse weakness of the heart muscle, called dilated cardiomyopathies.  Some of these are new problems due to a viral illness, while others may have existed for years but only now are causing symptoms.  In addition to these, there might be abnormal electrical circuits in the heart present at birth, abnormal heart arteries which could get compressed during exercise, and sudden traumatic impacts to the chest – the latter a more obvious cause to the spectator watching the action.

Future strategies to decrease risk of sudden death in our athletes

To prevent some of these arrests, some countries have put forth more aggressive screening programs including a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) or even an ultrasound (echocardiogram), before each playing season.  These would pick up hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 90% of cases, and probably most cases of the dilated cardiomyopathy and some of the electrical problems.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.  While the American Heart Association does not advocate for these screening programs, largely due to cost analyses, inconvenience, or that it’s hard to prove they work, they still make sense.

Since hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the majority cause, we need to do a better job of raising awareness about this disease, find the people at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, during athletics or otherwise, and get them to centers of excellence for this disease.  Dr. Srihari S. Naidu runs the HCM program at Westchester Medical Center (WMC).   WMC serves the New York and tri-state area, and beyond, and is committed both raising awareness of HCM, how it impacts people who may not even know they have it, and how to treat it before it becomes a problem.

Dr Naidu’s words are worth noting.

“It’s time we took control, so we are not shocked and bewildered next time (an athlete collapses) and instead (we) know exactly what we’re dealing with and what to do.”

This article was written with the assistance of Dr. Srihari S. Naidu.  He is one of the top experts in the field of HCM in athletes and I thank him for his valuable contributions.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT, PART IV

Editor’s Note:  This is the 4th of 4 blog entries which summarizes the presentations given at the recent International HCM Summit VI in Boston.  The presenter and their hospital affiliation are noted below, along with the topic of their presentation.  When possible, you may access the presenters’ slides via hyperlink by clicking on the name. (Note that not all presenters made their slides available).

To see Part I of this series of highlights from the HCM Summit VI, click here, to see Part II of this series click here, and to see part III of this series. click here.

Dr. Martin Maron, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA – A New Drug For Obstructive HCM

  • Mavacamten, formerly known as MYK-461, is being tested as a treatment for heart failure symptoms in HCM. It works by decreasing the power of the heart’s contraction. On average, both ejection fraction and left ventricular outflow tract gradient decreased by 15% in the recently completed Stage II trial.
  • Not all patients who took the drug showed improvement in symptoms and functional capacity.  The percentage of patients showing clinical improvement on mavacamten was similar to that seen with disopyramide.
  • Currently it is unclear what the long term effects of the drug will be.  This may become clearer after the upcoming Stage III trials.

Dr. Iacopo Olivotto, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy spoke about the sudden termination of the clinical trial of the Gilead drug eleclazine.  A link to the HCMBeat story about this can be found here. 

Dr. Steven Heitner, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR spoke about gene editing in HCM and described the recent work done with CRISPR at his institution.  A link to the HCMBeat story about this research can be found here.

Dr. Benjamin Levine, Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX spoke about exercise in HCM. While the risk of sudden death in young athletes may have suggested that a more sedentary lifestyle was appropriate for HCM patients, the recent RESET-HCM trial has challenged this, finding that moderate exercise is safe for patients with HCM.  (Click here for a HCMBeat interview with the principal investigators of this study, Drs. Sara Saberi and Sharlene Day).

Dr. Levine also mentioned that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in animal models of HCM show that HIIT may be protective against myocardial disarray.

Dr. Euan Ashley, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA spoke about the potential ways that personalized medicine might impact HCM care in the future.  Genetic mutations may influence the tendency toward arrhythmia, age of diagnosis, and exercise capacity.  New technologies like photoplethysmography which detects blood volume changes may provide data which can be helpful in personalizing treatments.

THIS CONCLUDES THE SUMMARIES OF THE PRESENTATIONS OF THE 2017 HCM SUMMIT.  To see Part I of this series of highlights from the HCM Summit VI, click here, to see Part II of this series click here, and to see part III of this series. click here.

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART III

**Because so much HCM information was presented at the Summit, this is the third of multiple blog entries.  Stay tuned to HCMBeat for more highlights from the HCM Summit.  To see Part I of this series of highlights from the HCM Summit VI, click here and to see Part II of this series click here.**

The symposium was organized by long time HCM expert Dr. Barry Maron and his son, Dr. Martin Maron.  Both Marons are now affiliated with Tufts Medical Center’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center.

What follows are summaries from selected talks presented at the meeting.  The presenter and their hospital affiliation are noted below, along with the topic of their presentation.  When possible, you may access the presenters’ slides via hyperlink by clicking on the name. (Note that not all presenters made their slides available).

Continue reading “HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART III”

Exercise Testing Important for HCM Patients

According to a recent study by doctors at Tufts HCM Center in collaboration with colleagues in Italy, exercise testing is an invaluable tool in the assessment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients.

In particular, two types of exercise testing are most valuable for HCM patients:

  • Exercise Echocardiogram:  These tests are valuable in determining whether a patient has obstruction.  It provides a physiological way to measure whether or not a patient has an obstructed left ventricular outflow tract and hence, may potentially be in need of an invasive procedure to treat the obstruction.  According to the article, approximately 1/3 of HCM patients have latent obstruction which may only be seen during or after exercise.  This obstruction is not always apparent from their resting echocardiogram.

and

  • Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing:  These tests help determine functional capacity and provide a quantifiable indicator of heart failure symptoms.  This test  can identify patients in need of more aggressive treatment options, or who are potentially in need of transplant.  A particularly valuable piece of data from this test is the “VO2 max” score, which is a measure of the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during exercise which reflects the cardiorespiratory fitness level of a person.

*Editor’s note – Exercise testing was particularly informative and important in my own HCM treatment.  It was only after my doctors performed an exercise echo that the extent of my obstruction became apparent.  The symptoms I had been suffering appeared to be out of proportion to what was visualized on my resting echo.  The exercise echo helped my doctors understand the cause of my symptoms which made the next step, in my case a myectomy, much clearer.

You can read my full story here .

 

 

Risk of Cardiac Arrest Low During Sex

According to research presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, the risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest during or within 1 hour of sex is less than 1%.

The study, published by Dr. Sumeet Chugh of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, looked at data collected in the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Oregon SUDS) database between 2002 and 2015.

Dr. Chugh emphasized that survival was higher in the group of patients who received CPR, re-emphasizing the importance of teaching CPR in the general population.

For more details on this study, see these stories:

Newsweek

NBC News

Minn Post

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART II

**Because so much HCM information was presented at the Summit, this is the second of multiple blog entries.  Stay tuned to HCMBeat for more highlights from the HCM Summit.  To see Part I of this series of highlights from the HCM Summit VI, click here.**

The 6th International HCM Summit was held October 27, 28 and 29th in Boston, Massachusetts.  This symposium brings together HCM professionals from around the world who are there to learn about and discuss the latest developments in the treatment of HCM.

The symposium was organized by long time HCM expert Dr. Barry Maron and his son, Dr. Martin Maron.  Both Marons are now affiliated with Tufts Medical Center’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center.

What follows are summaries from selected talks presented at the meeting.  The presenter and their hospital affiliation are noted below, along with the topic of their presentation.  When possible, you may access the presenters’ slides via hyperlink by clicking on the name. (Note that not all presenters made their slides available).

Continue reading “HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART II”

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART I

**Because so much HCM information was presented at the Summit, this will be the first of multiple blog entries.  Stay tuned to HCMBeat for more highlights from the HCM Summit.  You will find Part II of this series by clicking here.**

The 6th International HCM Summit was held October 27, 28 and 29th in Boston, Massachusetts.  This symposium brings together HCM professionals from around the world who are there to learn about and discuss the latest developments in the treatment of HCM.

The symposium was organized by long time HCM expert Dr. Barry Maron and his son, Dr. Martin Maron.  Both Marons are now affiliated with Tufts Medical Center’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center.

What follows are summaries from selected talks presented at the meeting.  The presenter and their hospital affiliation are noted below, along with the topic of their presentation.  When possible, you may access the presenters’ slides via hyperlink by clicking on the name. (Note that not all presenters made their slides available).

Continue reading “HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL HCM SUMMIT VI, PART I”

Greater Certainty in Genetic Testing Results at HCM Specialty Centers

A recent study published by members of the SHaRe Cardiomyopathy Registry found that genetic test results for HCM are more definitive and helpful to patients when testing has been carried out at a high volume HCM center – especially a center that shares genetic data with other HCM centers. 

Continue reading “Greater Certainty in Genetic Testing Results at HCM Specialty Centers”

Echo Measurement May Help to Guide HOCM Treatment Plan

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic recently published a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggesting that the measurement of left ventricular global longitudinal strain (LV-GLS), as determined by routine echocardiogram, may be helpful in determining treatment strategy for patients with obstructive HCM. 

In particular, the researchers found that a poor LV-GLS measurement seemed to correlate with a higher incidence of sudden cardiac arrest and appropriate ICD discharge.  Worsening LV‐GLS of less than -14% was associated with poorer prognosis, while myectomy seemed to improve LV‐GLS.

The researchers also found that a small number of HCM patients (including post-myectomy patients) with severely reduced LV‐GLS (worse than ≈ −7%) appeared to be in need of aggressive treatment, potentially including heart transplantation.

Chapter 3: MRI Safety for ICD & Pacemaker Patients

Long awaited results of the MagnaSafe study regarding the safety of MRIs in patients with implantable devices were published in February.   The MagnaSafe study established a multi-center prospective registry for patients undergoing MRI scans despite their having an implanted device not deemed safe for MRI scanning by the FDA.

Continue reading “Chapter 3: MRI Safety for ICD & Pacemaker Patients”