Juliet Martin has recently completed her SATROclub extended research placement at St George's Hospital. Juliet was tasked with investigating sudden cardiac death in the young: The sudden death of a young person from a silent cardiac disease is a very tragic event. In most instances the deaths are due to inherited conditions of the heart, therefore evaluation of first degree relatives is recommended. Her project included assessing the experience of these relatives while attending an expert clinic.
Here's what Juliet had to say about her first week at St George's Hospital...
"This week I have arrived at St George's Hospital where I will be working with another SATRO student and my mentor on a research project concerning the profiles of the hearts of young sports players.
The best thing about this week has been having the opportunity to sit in on 'clinic': consultations between cardiac outpatients and the cardiologists I'm working with. I've been able to observe how the doctors interact with patients as well as beginning to understand the process of diagnosis. Each patient that is seen comes with a completely different set of symptoms, risk factors, history and lifestyle, so that the two or three hours spent observing is extremely varied and flies by.
My mentor challenges us to look at the patient's ECG report and try to identify any abnormalities before he tells us what's already been flagged up which means that we are much more aware of the real-life link between what we see on paper and the patient's health. It's been really exciting beginning to understand and be able to interpret the various patterns we can see.
This ties in with how we are beginning research for our project. We have been provided with hundreds of ECG traces, echocardiogram reports and general health and family history information from adolescent football players. At this stage, we are entering all these details into a database for analysis later on.
Alongside the practical experience of clinic, these data become more significant and comparable and I am beginning to become familiar with 'normal' readings for the PR interval, QRS duration, QRS axis and various other pieces of information which made no sense to me when I first arrived. It's been amazing how much you can learn in a week!
The ultimate interest of our project and the day-to-day research of my mentor is enlargement of the heart. I have begun to read about HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), a disease in which the myocardium becomes thickened, and the data I've been examining so far as well as some of the patients I've observed in clinic have demonstrated instances of thickening of the heart muscle in sports players due to extreme exercise. All the knowledge I'm gaining is allowing me to develop a keen appreciation for the real research being undertaken here at St. George's Hospital and to begin to understand the importance of and motivation for large-scale medical research projects.
I'm looking forward to beginning to compile our data and hopefully analysing the trends that come out of it next week. I also hope to have opportunities to sit in on different types of scan to see how the results I've been reading are actually generated."