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

Breakthrough Research Contributes to Life-Saving Diagnosis

Jul 17, 2008, 01:00 ET from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

    ATLANTA, July 17 /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
     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. Photos and interviews are
     Children's Sibley Heart Center
     Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect, affecting
 one in 100 newborns each year. Treating nearly 30,000 children every year,
 the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center has garnered
 widespread national recognition for our innovative treatments, leading-edge
 research and compassionate care. And, in 2005, the Children's Sibley Heart
 Center was named one of the country's top three pediatric cardiac programs
 by Child magazine. Located at Children's at Egleston, we provide
 comprehensive cardiac services for congenital and acquired heart disease
 from infancy through young adulthood, as well as prenatal diagnostics.
 Visit or call 404-256-2593 or 800-542-2233 for more
     Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric
 healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that
 benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our
 community. Operating three hospitals with more than half a million patient
 visits annually, Children's is recognized for excellence in cancer,
 cardiac, neonatal, orthopaedic and transplant services, as well as many
 other pediatric specialties. Visit our Web site at or call
 404-250-KIDS to learn more about Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

SOURCE Children's Healthcare of Atlanta