What Does World Cup Star Cristiano Ronaldo and Children’s Medical Center Have in Common?

World Cup MainDid you know that international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo almost had his playing career ended by an abnormal heartbeat?

At 15, Ronaldo’s heart began racing out of control, even when he was at rest. His doctors were able to find the problem, (a fast heart arrhythmia called tachycardia), and cure him with a catheter ablation procedure.

Ronaldo now participates at the highest level of his sport, because he has been cured. You can watch him play this Sunday, June 22, when his Portugal national team takes on the U.S. national team in the World Cup.

What Is Catheter Ablation?

Dr. William Scott, Co-Director of The Heart Center at Children’s Medical Center

Dr. Scott says that more than a thousand heart procedures like the one Ronaldo received at 15 have been performed here at Children’s.

According to William Scott, M.D., Co-Director of The Heart Center at Children’s Medical Center, catheter ablation like Ronaldo received is a minimally invasive heart procedure where small wires are placed in the large veins of the leg and advance to the heart. These wires are used to make an electrical “map” of the heart that identifies the cause of the abnormal heart rate.

Once identified, the problem can be eliminated by heating the small area of the heart involved using a special catheter. The heat destroys the abnormal tissue and cures the condition.

Ronaldo’s mother was so pleased with the outcome of his heart procedure that she joked, “It seems the treatment allowed him to run even faster!”

Heart Care at Children’s

At Children’s, we routinely treat children and adolescents with heart conditions just like Ronaldo had. Our comprehensive arrhythmia program is one component of the internationally recognized Heart Center at Children’s.

Our electrophysiology laboratory has the most advanced equipment, much of which was not available for Ronaldo’s procedure two decades ago. We now have the ability to create 3-D images of the heart’s electrical system and use both freezing and heating technology to more accurately diagnose and cure abnormal heart rhythms.

More than a thousand heart procedures like the one Ronaldo had have been performed here at Children’s.

How Dangerous Was Ronaldo’s Heart Condition?

Dr. Scott says that while rare, the potential for life-threatening arrhythmias is a concern to everyone, although abnormal heart rhythms are a particular concern for those involved in athletic activities, like Ronaldo.  Athletes more frequently undergo screening evaluations for heart abnormalities, and many have findings that require additional evaluation.

The Heart Center at Children’s is where young athletes come for any concern related to the heart. After a complete review, most of those concerns are not related to a serious condition, and full athletic participation resumes. For the few who have a problem, treatment begins immediately.

6 Warning Signs You May Have a Dangerous Heart Rhythm
1. Sudden heart racing
2. Unexplained sudden fainting
3. Unexplained seizure
4. Near drowning due to sudden loss of consciousness
5. Family history of abnormal heart rhythm
6. Family history of sudden, unexpected death

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