Background The usefulness and modalities of cardiovascular screening in young athletes remain controversial, particularly concerning the role of 12-lead ECG. One of the reasons refers to the presumed false-positive ECGs requiring additional examinations and higher costs. Our study aimed to assess the total costs and yield of a preparticipation cardiovascular examination with ECG in young athletes in Switzerland.
Methods Athletes aged 14–35 years were examined according to the 2005 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) protocol. ECGs were interpreted based on the 2010 ESC-adapted recommendations. The costs of the overall screening programme until diagnosis were calculated according to Swiss medical rates.
Results A total of 1070 athletes were examined (75% men, 19.7±6.3 years) over a 15-month period. Among them, 67 (6.3%) required further examinations: 14 (1.3%) due to medical history, 15 (1.4%) due to physical examination and 42 (3.9%) because of abnormal ECG findings. A previously unknown cardiac abnormality was established in 11 athletes (1.0%). In four athletes (0.4%), the abnormality may potentially lead to sudden cardiac death and all of them were identified by ECG alone. The cost was 157 464 Swiss francs (CHF) for the overall programme, CHF147 per athlete and CHF14 315 per finding.
Conclusions Cardiovascular preparticipation examination in young athletes using modern and athlete-specific criteria for interpreting ECG is feasible in Switzerland at reasonable cost. ECG alone is used to detect all potentially lethal cardiac diseases. The results of our study support the inclusion of ECG in routine preparticipation screening.
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