Accuracy of Interpretation of Preparticipation Screening Electrocardiograms

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ObjectiveTo evaluate the accuracy of pediatric cardiologists’ interpretations of electrocardiograms (ECGs).Study designA series of 18 ECGs that represented conditions causing pediatric sudden cardiac death or normal hearts were interpreted by 53 members of the Western Society of Pediatric Cardiology. Gold-standard diagnoses and recommendations were determined by 2 electrophysiologists (100% concordance).ResultsThe average number of correct ECG interpretations per respondent was 12.4 ± 2.2 (69%, range 34%-98%). Respondents achieved a sensitivity of 68% and a specificity of 70% for recognition of any abnormality. The false-positive and false-negative rates were 30% and 32%, respectively. Based on actual ECG diagnosis, sports participation was accurately permitted in 74% of cases and accurately restricted in 81% of cases. Respondents gave correct sports guidance most commonly in cases of long QT syndrome and myocarditis (98% and 90%, respectively) and least commonly in cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, and pulmonary hypertension (80%, 64%, and 38%, respectively). Respondents ordered more follow-up tests than did experts.ConclusionsPreparticipation screening ECGs are difficult to interpret. Mistakes in ECG interpretation could lead to high rates of inappropriate sports guidance. A consequence of diagnostic error is overuse of ancillary diagnostic tests.

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