Congenital Coronary Anomaly Program | Children’s Health

Congenital Coronary Anomaly Program

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While rare, congenital defects in the heart’s coronary arteries can have serious consequences – especially for young athletes. At Children’s Health℠ Heart Center, our congenital coronary artery program specializes in diagnosing and managing these often silent heart defects so children and adolescents can continue playing sports, safely.

Our skilled pediatric cardiologists use advanced testing to thoroughly evaluate children’s heart health. When a coronary abnormality is detected, our dedicated specialists use the latest research to tailor treatment recommendations to keep competitive athletes safe and in the game, whenever possible.

Expert Care for Coronary Defects

At Children’s Health Heart Center, our team provides an expert level of care for coronary defects while being sensitive to the unique needs of competitive youth athletes and families in North Texas. You’ll benefit from our:

  • Expertise: Our highly skilled pediatric team of nurses, sonographers, cardiologists and surgeons diagnose 20 to 25 new cases of coronary anomalies each year. Because we evaluate and treat a large number of these rare conditions, we serve as a referral site for the North Texas area. This focus leads to more accurate diagnoses and a higher level of care. If your child needs surgery to correct a heart defect, we can perform that specialized procedure right here.
  • Thorough evaluation: Our specially trained care professionals use advanced ultrasound imaging to examine the heart’s tiny coronary arteries in more detail, offering an expert level of diagnosis. When a coronary defect is confirmed, further testing can give a more complete picture of a child’s health:
    • Echocardiography: Our IAC-accredited laboratory provides advanced diagnostic techniques as first-line screening for coronary abnormalities.
    • Cardiac MRI: An imaging technique that looks at the heart’s structures and is able to provide an accurate three-dimensional reconstruction.
    • Cardiac CT: A scan that takes detailed pictures of the heart
    • Cardiac catheterization: A test that passes a catheter (flexible tubing) through the blood vessels to evaluate the heart and surrounding blood flow
    • Exercise stress tests: Used to measure how the heart reacts to stress or activity
  • Personalized recommendations: With our comprehensive testing, we can better gauge the risk of each unique coronary abnormality. We tailor recommendations to your child’s specific condition, sport, activity level and goals. Often, we’re able to clear children to safely return to their sports as long as we follow them closely.
  • Research and innovation: Our center takes part in a national collaborative effort by the Congenital Heart Surgeon’s Society to research anomalous coronary arteries. Having access to the most up-to-date information helps our specialists fine-tune techniques to more accurately diagnose this condition and make proven management recommendations.
  • Family-focused care: We sit down with you and your child to explain in detail what a coronary defect diagnosis means for your child’s athletic pursuits. We go over everything you can do to keep your child safe. We work with families to get athletes back to playing sports in the safest manner possible, pursuing whatever activity they love.

Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes: What Is It?

Sudden cardiac arrest in athletes generally happens without warning during physical activity, amounting to the equivalent of a heart attack on the field. Explore the tabs below for what you should know:

  • The cause: Coronary abnormalities are a range of congenital defects that affect the coronary vessels that feed oxygen to the heart. These abnormalities are currently the second-leading cause of cardiac death in young athletes in this country. These defects can cause the heart to stop beating suddenly, most commonly during some type of sport or physical exertion.
  • The concern: The condition is extremely rare, affecting 1 percent of the population at most. But coronary defects can be lethal, accounting for the second most common cause of sudden death in young athletes.
  • Who is at risk: While anyone can be born with this condition, symptoms generally don’t show up until children get older and start to be competitive in sports. Competitive athletes are more at risk because of their high level of activity.
  • Signs to watch for: If your child or adolescent experiences chest pain or fainting with exertion, tell your doctor. He or she can refer you for appropriate screening, if necessary.
  • What to remember: While coronary anomalies can be scary to think about, our specialists work with families to detect and manage these rare conditions to avoid a life-threatening cardiac event in young patients – often without interrupting their aspiring athletic pursuits.