Thursday, July 17, 2008

Researchers at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine Make New Discovery in Pediatric Heart Disease Diagnosis

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Erin Strickland had been sick for months when she was admitted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston in January 2008. The Douglasville teen had been treated for practically everything, from strep throat to scarlet fever to allergic reactions. Erin's quality of life had been limited by an unidentified illness, preventing her from participating in her normal athletic activities. Erin's mother, Lynda, was deeply concerned and spent endless hours taking Erin to specialist after specialist seeking an explanation for her numerous symptoms, which included rash, eye swelling, vomiting and headache.

Finally, at Children's, Lynda received the explanation for which she'd been searching so desperately. Erin was diagnosed, by cardiac biopsy, with giant cell myocarditis, an extremely rare cause of heart disease in children. Erin's diagnosis was aided by research led by Kevin Maher, M.D., Pediatric Cardiologist at the Children's Sibley Heart Center, and Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine. Erin's B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) level was elevated -- more than 50 times its normal level -- on admission to Children's, which led to further evaluation and biopsy.

Dr. Maher recently concluded research--diagnosing and evaluating 33 patients who presented in the Emergency department--regarding the use of (BNP) testing to help diagnose heart disease in infants and children. BNP testing is already being used effectively in adult emergency rooms to determine if patient symptoms are heart-related or not. Though BNP tests are not currently being used in pediatric emergency rooms, Dr. Maher's research indicates they should be. Use of such tests could dramatically increase the chances of diagnosing heart problems early, before more serious complications arise. Dr. Maher and his team concluded that BNP level can be used as a marker to aid in the recognition of pediatric heart disease. This means that the same test physicians use to diagnose heart disease in a 75-year-old can now be used to diagnose heart disease in an infant. This discovery will aid Emergency physicians in the recognition of pediatric heart disease and has great life-saving potential.

Fortunately for Erin, Dr. Maher and the other cardiologists at Children's diagnosed her quickly enough to avoid heart transplantation. Erin is currently being treated for her condition with medication, and she celebrated her 15th birthday in March. Though she is unable to resume her normal athletic pursuits immediately, physicians are pleased with her progress and believe she has a bright future.

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