Accuracy of the ECG for differential diagnosis between hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and athlete’s heart: comparison between the European Society of Cardiology (2010) and International (2017) criteria

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Abstract

Background

Interpretation of the athlete’s ECG is based on differentiation between benign ECG changes and potentially pathological abnormalities. The aim of the study was to compare the 2010 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the 2017 International criteria for differential diagnosis between hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and athlete’s heart.

Methods

The study populations included 200 patients with HCM and 563 athletes grouped as follows: ‘group 1’, including normal ECG and isolated increase of QRS voltages, which are considered non-pathologic according to ESC and International criteria; ‘group 2’, including left atrial enlargement or left axis deviation in isolation and Q-waves with an amplitude ≥4 mm but <25% of the ensuing R-wave and a duration <0.04 s which are considered pathologic according to the ESC but not according to the International criteria; and ‘group 3’, including abnormalities which are considered pathologic according to ESC and International criteria.

Results

Overall, the 2010 ESC criteria showed a sensitivity of 95.5% and a specificity of 86.9%. Considering group 2 ECG changes as normal according to the International criteria led to a statistically significant (p<0.001) increase of specificity to 95.9%, associated with a non-significant (p=0.47) reduction of sensitivity to 93%. Among patients with HCM, there was a significant increase of maximal left ventricular wall thickness from group 1 to 3 (p=0.02).

Conclusions

The use of 2017 International criteria is associated with a substantial increase in specificity and a marginal decrease in sensitivity for differential diagnosis between HCM and athlete’s heart.

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