(HealthDay News) — For high school athletes, the addition of electrocardiogram (ECG) to cardiac screening strategies increases the likelihood of identifying disorders associated with sudden cardiac death, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society, held from May 7–10 in San Francisco.

Jordan M. Prutkin, MD, from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a prospective study in U.S. high schools to examine the effectiveness of different cardiac screening strategies in competitive athletes. A total of 4,812 athletes underwent cardiac screening.

The researchers identified a significant abnormality requiring further evaluation in 23 athletes (0.5%). An abnormal history or physical examination findings and an abnormal ECG led to the diagnosis in 61 and 70% of disorders, respectively. Disorders were detected in seven athletes (30%) with addition of ECG which would not have been identified with the American Heart Association protocol. The false positive rates were 22.3, 14.9, and 3.6%, respectively, for history, physical examination, and ECG, while the positive predictive values were 1.0, 1.0, and 8.6%, respectively. One case was identified incidentally by echocardiography, despite having no relevant abnormality on history, physical examination, or ECG.

“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,” Prutkin said in a statement.

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