Early Screening for Cardiovascular Abnormalities With Preparticipation Echocardiography: Feasibility Study

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Abstract

Objective:

The traditional history and physical (H&P) is a poor screening modality to identify athletes at risk for sudden cardiac death. Although better than H&P alone, electrocardiograms (ECG) have also been found to have high false-positive rates. A limited portable echocardiogram by a frontline physician (PEFP) performed during preparticipation physical examination (PPE) allows for direct measurements of the heart to more accurately identify athletes with structural abnormalities. Therefore, it is worthwhile to assess the feasibility of incorporating limited PEFP as part of PPEs. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of incorporating limited screening PEFP into routine PPEs.

Methods:

Thirty-five Division I male collegiate athletes were prospectively enrolled in the study after informed consent was obtained. Each athlete underwent screening with H&P, ECG, and limited PEFP. The H&P was performed based on the 2007 twelve-element preparticipation cardiovascular screening guidelines from the American Heart Association. The ECGs were interpreted using the 2013 Seattle Criteria. The limited echocardiographic (ECHO) measurements were obtained in the parasternal long axis view. End-diastolic measurements were recorded for the left ventricular diameter (LVD), left ventricular posterior wall diameter (LVPWd), interventricular septal wall diameter (IVSWd), aortic root diameter, and ascending aorta. The length of time of each screening station was recorded and reported in seconds (sec) and compared by one-way repeated-measures of analysis of variance with pairwise Bonferroni correction. A priori alpha level was set as 0.05.

Results:

The length of time for screening was significantly shorter with limited PEFP (137.7 ± 40.4 seconds) compared with H&P (244.2 ± 80.0 seconds) and ECG (244.9 ± 85.6 seconds, P < 0.01). The screening time did not differ between H&P and ECG (P = 0.97). Six athletes had a positive finding in H&P screening and 3 athletes had positive ECG findings. One athlete had both a positive H&P and screening ECG. All 3 athletes with positive ECGs had negative limited PEFP screens. One athlete had a borderline posterior wall thickness (1.49 mm) on the limited screening PEFP evaluation and another was found to have a borderline IVSWd-to-LVPWd ratio (1.28). All 3 athletes with positive ECG findings and both athletes with a borderline finding on limited PEFP were referred for formal evaluation with a cardiologist. None of the 5 athletes were disqualified from competition after cardiac evaluation, but 1 of the athletes with a positive screening-limited ECHO needs annual monitoring.

Conclusions:

Incorporating limited PEFP into PPEs has the potential to limit the number of false-positive and false-negative cardiac screens. Limited PEFP was the fastest screening modality compared with traditional H&P and ECG methods. Based on the time-driven activity-based paradigm of cost analysis, limited PEFP as part of the PPE yields the highest value: the most accurate and reliable information and the lowest dollar/time expenditure.

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