THURSDAY, May 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Including a test of
the heart's electrical activity in screening programs for high
school athletes increases the odds of detecting problems that can
lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death, according to a new
Researchers looked at data on nearly 5,000 athletes, ages 13 to
19, at 23 Seattle-area high schools who underwent standard American
Heart Association screening, including a heart health questionnaire
and physical examination. They also received an electrocardiogram
Twenty-three athletes were found to have significant heart
abnormalities that required further evaluation. In seven of those
athletes, the use of electrocardiogram led to the detection of
heart problems that would not have been identified by the standard
The researchers noted that modern criteria used to interpret the
electrocardiogram results led to fewer false-positive findings and
more accurate detection of heart problems in the young athletes.
The false-positive rate for electrocardiogram was under 4 percent,
compared with about 22 percent with the heart health questionnaire
and about 15 percent for physical examination.
The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the Heart
Rhythm Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.
"The debate has mostly been focused on whether or not to include
ECG screening, and this study shows it is not just about whether or
not to include an ECG, but the importance of appropriate ECG
interpretation in athletes," lead author Dr. Jordan Prutkin, an
assistant professor at the University of Washington School of
Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology, said in a society news
"We need to focus future research on how we can further develop
better athlete-specific interpretation criteria, which in turn will
help reduce sudden cardiac arrest in the young population," he
Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
sudden cardiac arrest.