(HealthDay News) – A national electrocardiographic (ECG) screening program for athletes in the United States would result in huge costs per life saved, according to a study published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Amir Halkin, MD, from Tel Aviv University in Israel, and colleagues estimated the costs and number of lives that would be saved by implementation of a national ECG screening of athletes in the United States. A cost-projection model was used which replicated data in terms of athlete characteristics and physician performance from an Italian study suggesting that mandatory ECG screening reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death. Data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations were used to estimate the size of the screening-eligible population. Medicare reimbursement rates were used to ascertain the costs of diagnostic tests.

The researchers found that a 20-year program of ECG screening of young competitive athletes in the United States could save an estimated 4,813 lives and would cost between $51 and $69 billion, with an estimated cost per life saved ranging from $10.6–$14.4 million.

“Given the limited resources available to health care in the United States and the limited life-saving potential of ECG screening, it is clear that mandating such a program, rather than applying it selectively, is likely to hinder the penetration of other preventive measures for cardiac arrest victims,” the authors write.

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