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Heart Screenings for All Sixth-Graders?

When doctors in Houston launched a pilot program to screen middle school students for heart problems, they expected undiagnosed conditions would be rare, but what they found, CBS News correspondent Don Teague reported, was shocking.

Of about 100 sixth graders who underwent a series of tests by doctors from the University of Texas Houston, seven were discovered to have heart conditions that had been missed in regular checkups. Two of the children needed surgery.

6th Grader Heart Exams Shock Researchers

Dr. John Higgins, of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told CBS News, "Potentially, screening that group of a hundred children, we have saved two lives."

Higgins hopes the study, which includes a series of four tests on each child, including electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiograms, will eventually lead to routine heart exams for all sixth graders in America.

The goal, according to Higgins, is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest, particularly in student athletes.

An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 children die of sudden cardiac arrest each year, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on "The Early Show" the study does have its limitations because of the small group screened.

She added more than 35,000 babies are born each year with congenital heart defects. If not diagnosed as a baby, detecting heart problems may be difficult. Currently, Ashton said, standardized screening for cardiac problems for children does not exist.

Ashton said, "Parents should talk to their children's pediatrician, find out about whether just a physical exam and history is enough, or whether they need to go on to an EKG or sonogram."

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