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Applying Advanced Technologies to Athletic Cardiac Assessment at London 2012

During the first week of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organized scientific seminars/workshops targeting the Chief Medical Officers of the National Olympic Committees (NOC). The aim of these sessions is to encourage learning and to foster a networking opportunity with peers from competing nations, a total of 204.

As a TOP Sponsor of the Olympic Games, GE Healthcare hosted a session on the topic of: Applying advanced technologies to the problem of athletic cardiac assessment, delivered by Dr. Douglas Hansell, Chief Medical Officer, GE Healthcare. The session took place at the Olympic Village Polyclinic which is a 5,000sqm, four-story building. Approximately 200 athletes were expected to be treated daily in the main Polyclinic. Most common cases expected included musculoskeletal injuries such as strains and sprains, minor illness such as the common cold and superficial trauma such as wounds and grazes. It was open for use by up to 16,000 Olympic athletes and team officials and 6,200 Paralympic athletes and team officials resident in the Village. The Polyclinic includes some of the most sophisticated medical equipment currently available in the UK including MRI, Ultrasound and CT scanners supplied by London 2012 healthcare partner GE. Click here to take a virtual tour of the facility.

Dr. Douglas Hansell, Chief Medical Officer at GE Healthcare provides his insight into what he discussed during the session and the role of GE Healthcare’s technologies in light of cardiac assessment. 

What were the main takeaways of your session entitled: Applying advanced technologies to the problem of athletic cardiac assessment, delivered by Dr. Douglas Hansell, Chief Medical Officer, GE Healthcare

Around the world we are learning more about the cardiac risks faced by young athletes. The IOC and the national team physicians are on the front line here. While abnormalities and complications are rare, the team physicians are focused on reducing these risks further. To do so, they need cutting edge diagnostic technology such as ECG, ultrasound & perhaps molecular testing. GE is positioned to help.

We’ve recently seen a number of athletes die of sudden cardiac health on the field of play. Can this be diagnosed by physicians diagnosed early on and if so, how could GE technologies help?

While cardiac abnormalities and sudden cardiac death in athletes is rare, having tools to complete a cardiac assessment can be extremely valuable in detecting potential issues. GE offers a wide array of technology to help understand cardiac performance and function. Our electrocardiograph technology continues to advance and is trusted by clinicians around the world. Our ultrasound technology enables clinicians to identify any structural changes and understand physiologic function in real time. Many cardiac conditions have a genetic basis – our molecular medicine products enable GE to be at the forefront of these discoveries and developments. These are just a few examples of how our diagnostic technology enables clinicians to deliver optimal cardiac care.

Does GE Healthcare partner with leading institutes/clinicians & get involved in cardiac research?

It’s GE Healthcare’s goal to provide the tools and technologies that clinicians want to provide a high level of care for their patients- that’s an integral part of our healthymagination strategy. We strive to stay at the forefront of healthcare technologies – especially for cardiology, and this means we do align ourselves with thought-leading clinicians, scientists, and institutions for research and development. We seek to push the boundaries of what our current technologies can do, and set our eyes on what’s possible for the future. We also partner with these institutions to make sure that our technologies are tested in real-world environments to help ensure they perform at a high level for our customers.

Olympic athletes are among the healthiest, most physically active people in the world. Why is cardiac assessment important for those who have reached the epitome of athletics?

Athletes, especially high performance Olympians, place their bodies under significant stress. Our bodies are incredibly resilient and adaptable – athletes adapt to that stress. For trainers and athletes it is important to know what changes are normal adaptation to the stress of high performance training and competition versus changes which may be early indicators of a significant risk.

One organ that undergoes significant change during training and competition is an athlete’s heart. Most of these changes are normal responses to the stress of training. However, over the past several years we’ve been made more aware of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. While this risk is small, trainers and coaches want to understand it and manage it. This is where diagnostic technology from GE can help in the hands of trained physicians.

What enables GE Healthcare ECG and Ultrasound products to help Olympic Committee physicians provide this high level of care? What makes GE Healthcare technologies unique?

Our ECG algorithms have been developed and tested in hundreds of thousands of patients. Our Marquette 12SLalgorithm undergoes continuous development and validation to remain at the forefront of computerized ECG, and has become a preferred choice among cardiologists and non-cardiologists worldwide. For example, 12SL has particular expertise in helping with difficult waveform measurements – specifically in determining if a patient has prolonged QT syndrome, which can lead to fatal arrhythmias. . Our technology is portable – available in the clinic or on the field – whether that field is in London or in some remote village. Our ultrasound technology continues to advance – allowing clinicians to see inside and understand cardiac function.