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Why Is There Even a Debate?

All of us at Cody Stephens Foundation do constant research on sudden cardiac arrest and basic heart-related information to keep our knowledge and our skills sharp, and to answer any questions people might have.


It will come as no surprise that not everyone on the Internet agrees on things. But a constant surprise is how much disagreement there is on ECGs within the medical community. With all the research that’s been done on ECGs, it’s hard to understand why there isn’t greater consensus on their effectiveness. One thing that is absolutely not up for debate: children are dying from undetected heart problems.


Other than ECGs, the only solution being offered are better questions to ask at the school physical. With so few options, how can anyone deny using any means necessary as a route to saving lives? All medical procedures have ranges of effectiveness – nothing is absolute. To dismiss a procedure that is proven to save lives, just because it isn’t 100% effective in its diagnosis is the height of hubris. And to dismiss ECGs purely because of cost is just plain silly. We screen for $20 and can bring our model anywhere in the country. Lots of other cities have foundations that hold free ECG screenings.


Here’s a great example of how the debate usually goes. Seattle-based Pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson writes a great blog called Seattle Mama Doc and in March she wrote about Sudden Cardiac Death. She is a good reporter and references both sides of the “debate”. But if you look at the Comments page that follows, it’s doctors who poo-poo ECG testing and parents who are begging for it.


I get that doctors aren’t likely to be happy about anything that says they aren’t doing their job to the best of their abilities. But adding ECG screening to a school physical isn’t saying that. These are not mutually exclusive acts, but rather one as a supplement to the other for better overall heath care. A doctor wouldn’t preclude using a diagnostic test if necessary during a patient visit, so why on earth would that same doctor be so threatened by a simple ECG test to back him up?


Not catching a heart issue during a physical is remarkably easy to do, even with the most thorough History.


The reality is that very few people take the standard school physical the way it was intended, and in many, many cases, they don’t answer the screening questions fully or honestly. Most schools hold mass physicals in less than ideal surroundings on one or two days in the Spring or Summer. The intentions are great – let’s get these kids a low-cost physical so they can play sports. But the reality is that it’s loud, crowded and a factory line that covers just the basics. Many times the kids fill out the forms themselves while standing in line – how do they know their family history? They just wanna play.


It’s time to get rid of the debate and adopt a program that protects kids’ health and saves kids’ lives.


-Mary DeBauche, Executive Director, Cody Stephens Foundation

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