(HealthDay News) — More than 20% of young non-athletes have electrocardiogram (ECG) patterns that can be considered potentially pathological based on the 2010 European Society of Cardiology position paper, according to a study published online February 26 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Navin Chandra, MBBS, from St. George’s University of London, and colleagues examined the prevalence of potentially abnormal ECG patterns in young individuals to assess the implications for a nationwide sudden cardiac death screening program. A total of 7,764 non-athletes, aged 14–35 years, underwent ECG screening between 2008 and 2012. ECGs were analyzed for training-related (Group 1) and potentially pathological (Group 2) patterns. The results were compared with those for 4,081 athletes.

The researchers found that 49.1% of non-athletes and 87.4% of athletes had Group 1 patterns, while 21.8 and 33.0%, respectively, had Group 2 patterns (both P<0.001). The majority of Group 2 changes in non-athletes were QTc interval abnormalities, while T-wave inversions accounted for 11%. The strongest associations with Group 2 ECG patterns were seen for male gender and African/Afro-Caribbean ethnicity.

“The study demonstrates that one in five young persons exhibit Group 2 ECG patterns. The low incidence of sudden cardiac death in young persons suggests that in most instances such patterns are non-specific,” the authors write. “These findings have significant implications on the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of nationwide screening programs for cardiovascular disease in young non-athletes and athletes alike based on current guidelines.”

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