The Wolff–Parkinson–White electrocardiogram pattern in athletes: how and when to evaluate the risk for dangerous arrhythmias. The opinion of the paediatric cardiologist


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Abstract

Although diagnostic assessment and treatment have been described in detail in patients with symptomatic Wolff–Parkinson–White (WPW) syndrome, the management of asymptomatic subjects remains controversial. Usually they are assumed to have a benign prognosis, although they do very occasionally present with ventricular fibrillation (VF) as the first manifestation of the syndrome. Discovering a WPW pattern in a previously asymptomatic athlete on a routine electrocardiogram (ECG) identifies the necessity for more accurate screening tests. However, non-invasive methods (Holter monitoring, exercise treadmill testing) seem to be relatively incomplete for risk stratification, especially for athletes. Current guidelines do not always recommend a routine electrophysiological study (EPS) in patients with an asymptomatic WPW ECG pattern, especially in children younger than 12 years. Individuals who engage in high-risk occupations or those patients who have a pre-excitation pattern which precludes them from following their chosen career or activities may be exceptions. The presence of inducible reciprocating tachycardia during EPS, especially when it triggers atrial fibrillation with short RR interval, can represent a specific risk marker of dangerous arrhythmias.

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