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Midshipman’s fatal heart condition unlikely to be caught in routine screening, cardiologist says

United States Naval Academy Cemetery (No Author/WikiCommons)

The heart condition that led to Midshipman Duke Carrillo’s death wouldn’t have been caught in routine screenings of midshipmen, a Baltimore Washington Medical Center cardiologist said.

A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Carrillo’s cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy, and the manner of his death was natural. This is one detail from the medical examiner’s report that is not final.

Academy representatives declined to comment until the medical examiner’s report is finished.

Carrillo, a 21-year-old sophomore, collapsed Feb. 8 during the last portion of the semi-annual physical readiness test. He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition that makes the heart muscle weak and the heart chambers enlarged.

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The pumping function of the heart is reduced, which can lead to congestive heart failure, said Dr. Vasundhara Muthu, a cardiologist at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie.

A physical exam can pick up signs of congestive heart failure, but an echocardiogram — an ultrasound of the heart — is needed to diagnose it, Muthu said.

“Doing an echocardiogram for screening on all naval cadets may not be logistically feasible and is not currently a part of guidelines unless some abnormality is detected on screening evaluation,” Muthu said. “This may change if our changing knowledge tells us that the incidence or prevalence of DCM is more than is currently known which will make screening large populations more pertinent and cost-effective and probably that should be the focus of preventive and sports cardiology discussions.”

If the condition isn’t detected, Muthu said it can be “potentially catastrophic.”

Muthu said Carrillo’s first-degree relatives, especially siblings like his twin brother, should be tested since the condition is likely genetic. Carrillo’s family could not be reached for comment.

Eight days after Carrillo was buried at the Naval Academy, Midshipman David Forney, a 22-year-old Navy Football player, was found unresponsive in his dorm room Feb 20. The cause of this death is still being investigated.

Forney is the 12th Naval Academy midshipman death since 2012. He was honored and buried at the academy on March 3.

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