Heart ultrasound spots furtive child killer

June 20, 2006

Echocardiography has unearthed links among morbid pediatric obesity, sleep disorders, and potentially fatal -- often hidden -- pulmonary hypertension, according to a study presented in June at the American Society of Echocardiography meeting.

Echocardiography has unearthed links among morbid pediatric obesity, sleep disorders, and potentially fatal - often hidden - pulmonary hypertension, according to a study presented in June at the American Society of Echocardiography meeting.

Physicians have long known that obesity and sleep apnea go hand in hand. What they didn't know is that unsuspected abnormalities such as pulmonary hypertension sometimes belong in the equation. Heart ultrasound can often detect these conditions in young patients, said principal investigator Dr. Monesha Gupta-Malhotra from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Gupta-Malhotra and colleagues enrolled 143 children and young adults ages one to 19 years old with systemic hypertension. All underwent echocardiography for the diagnosis of end-organ damage. The researchers evaluated all studies for pulmonary artery pressures (PAP) equal to or larger than 40 mm Hg as measured by Doppler sonography.

After ruling out other causes, they found that a significant percentage of children with elevated PAP were morbidly obese. They also found a significant number of those children had sleep apnea.

The investigators detected elevated PAP in nine children (mean age 13.7 and mean PAP 43.5 mm Hg). Six of them had idiopathic systemic hypertension and were morbidly obese. Four had left ventricular hypertrophy and sleep disturbances. These children had had their tonsils and adenoids removed.

The researchers suggested the etiology of the elevated and potentially fatal blood pressure in the lungs of children with idiopathic systemic hypertension might be related to hypoxia induced from obstructive sleep apnea.

"This finding may lead to life-saving treatment," Gupta-Malhotra said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Radiology reports fail to mention pediatric obesity

Diffusion MR technique shows promise for pediatric lung assessment

Pediatric heart scan delivers high radiation dose

CT angiography safely visualizes pediatric vascular anomalies