Diagnostic Yield of Genetic Testing in Young Athletes With T-Wave Inversion

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T-wave inversion (TWI) is common in patients with cardiomyopathy. However, up to 25% of athletes of African/Afro-Caribbean descent (black athletes) and 5% of white athletes also have TWI of unclear clinical significance despite comprehensive clinical evaluation and long-term follow-up. The aim of this study was to determine the diagnostic yield from genetic testing, beyond clinical evaluation, when investigating athletes with TWI.


We investigated 50 consecutive asymptomatic black and 50 white athletes 14 to 35 years of age with TWI and a normal echocardiogram who were referred to a UK tertiary center for cardiomyopathy and sports cardiology. Subjects underwent exercise testing, 24-hour ambulatory ECG, signal-averaged ECG, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, and a blood-based analysis of a comprehensive 311-gene panel for cardiomyopathies and ion channel disorders associated with TWI, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, left ventricular noncompaction, long-QT syndrome, and Brugada syndrome.


In total, 21 athletes (21%) were diagnosed with cardiac disease on the basis of comprehensive clinical investigations. Of these, 8 (38.1%) were gene positive (myosin binding protein C[MYBPC3], myosin heavy chain 7 [MYH7], galactosidase alpha [GLA], and actin alpha, cardiac muscle 1 [ACTC1] genes) and 13 (61.9%) were gene negative. Of the remaining 79 athletes (79%), 2 (2.5%) were gene positive (transthyretin [TTR] and sodium voltage-gated channel alpha subunit 5 [SCN5A] genes) in the absence of a clinical phenotype. The prevalence of newly diagnosed cardiomyopathy was higher in white athletes compared with black athletes (30.0% versus 12%; P=0.027). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy accounted for 90.5% of all clinical diagnoses. All black athletes and 93.3% of white athletes with a clinical diagnosis of cardiomyopathy or a genetic mutation capable of causing cardiomyopathy exhibited lateral TWI as opposed to isolated anterior or inferior TWI; the genetic yield of diagnoses from lateral TWI was 12.3%.


Up to 10% of athletes with TWI revealed mutations capable of causing cardiac disease. Despite the substantial cost, the positive diagnostic yield from genetic testing was one half that from clinical evaluation (10% versus 21%) and contributed to additional diagnoses in only 2.5% of athletes with TWI in the absence of a clear clinical phenotype, making it of negligible use in routine clinical practice.

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