The Use of Echocardiography for Pediatric Patients Presenting with Syncope

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To assess the frequency, yield, and cost of echocardiograms meeting “rarely appropriate” criteria.

Study design

Retrospective, single-center study of pediatric patients presenting with syncope. Patients were categorized according to the appropriate use criteria and based upon location of care (emergency department only, primary care setting only, or referred to a pediatric cardiologist). Multivariable regression was used to determine factors associated with performance of a “rarely appropriate” echocardiogram. Costs were calculated using fair market values from the Healthcare Bluebook.


The cohort included 637 patients presenting with syncope during the 1-year study. Echocardiograms were ordered for 127 of 637 (20.1%) including 0 of 328 emergency department patients, 1 of 66 (1.5%) primary care setting patients, and 127 of 243 (52.3%) patients evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist. Use of echocardiography by pediatric cardiologists was categorized as “appropriate” in 92 of 127 (72.4%), “maybe appropriate” in 6 of 127 (4.7%), and “rarely appropriate” in 29 of 127 (22.8%). Abnormal findings were seen in 6 of 127 (4.7%) echocardiograms but in none of the “rarely appropriate” studies. In multivariable analysis, female sex and younger age were the only factors associated with performance of a “rarely appropriate” echocardiogram. “Rarely appropriate” echocardiograms cost an estimated $16 704.00 ($576.00 per patient) in the 1-year study.


“Rarely appropriate” echocardiograms performed for syncope do not contribute management changing diagnostic information. However, they burden patients with additional cost and perhaps contribute to increased need for follow-up.

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