Why introduce a screening programme?

In 80% of cases of young sudden cardiac death (YSCD) there are no prior symptoms of a heart defect. The frequency of YSCD can be dramatically reduced by making heart screening available to all young people between the ages of 14 and 35.

Systematic screening programmes are needed to establish the prevalence of cardiac conditions in the young. The aim of a screening programme is to detect an underlying cardiac condition. Once detected, preventative or therapeutic interventions can be implemented and the disease can be treated while it is less advanced. In the case of cardiac conditions, the aim is to put in place treatments and lifestyle changes that will minimise the risk of a sudden cardiac death. These preventative actions may include medications, surgery or lifestyle changes. Often specific medications or drugs will need to be avoided. In some cases the condition can be cured with the risk of sudden cardiac death entirely removed.

A simple way to diagnose most cardiac abnormalities is a quick, painless and non-invasive test called an electrocardiogram (ECG) which records the electrical activity of the heart. If a more detailed image is required, an ultrasound scan of the heart – called an echocardiogram – can be taken. Any person between the ages of 14 and 35 can book a place at a CRY screening event through www.testmyheart.org.uk. There is usually no charge for the testing. CRY operates screening programmes for the general public (aged 14 to 35) in schools, universities, sports clubs and community health centres.