By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

TEMPLE - Adult and pediatric cardiology are different worlds, said Dr. John Pliska, chief of the division of pediatric cardiology at the McLane Children's Hospital Scott & White.

"In adults, they have a normal heart that went bad. In our world, it's that they start abnormal," he said.

Pliska and his team use imaging from tests such as echocardiograms to search a patient's heart for abnormalities such as missing valves, holes or misplaced blood vessels. The echocardiogram allows the doctor to look at 3D images of the structure of the patient's heart using a sonogram through the chest wall. Due to an increase in resources over the years, Scott & White performs about 200 of these tests a month on children of all ages.

Understanding the problems of someone's heart can help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, which kills an estimated 2,000 young adults under the age of 25 each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There are several reasons that a child might need to visit Pliska's clinic, such as the heart murmur that 7-month-old Jazmyn Flemming was born with.

"A follow-up with an echocardiogram found she also has two holes in her heart and her left artery is very narrow," said Jazmyn's mother, Michelle Flemming of Harker Heights.

Tuesday's echocardiogram at the pediatric clinic was for a six-month follow-up to see if the holes had closed on their own.

"It does not affect her at all," said Flemming of Jazmyn, who was born one month early. "She's growing and moving."

Flemming said she was worried about the abnormalities, but that she had been through everything once before with her oldest daughter, who also was diagnosed with a heart murmur.

Patients also can be referred for heart testing based on symptoms and family history, especially student athletes, said Dr. George Bartels, a Scott & White family practitioner certified in sports medicine.

To determine who may be at risk, parents must fill out a pre-participation health questionnaire for student athletes provided by the University Interscholastic League.

"It's more the history that determines if they need to have an echocardiogram," said Bartels.

In the near future, Pliska said Scott & White is looking to host an event to screen athletes for the most common heart conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which accounts for 36 percent of sudden cardiac arrest among student athletes. Death from sudden cardiac arrest is extremely rare - about 30 students a year, or one in a million, according to the American Heart Association.

"The fact is we do a physical exam, we screen for family history, we screen for symptoms, but there will be groups of kids that fall through the cracks and die from it," said Pliska. "It would be helpful to expand the opportunity to perform echocardiograms and electrocardiograms on each athlete. ... It's expensive, but certainly feasible."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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