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Improving the quality of life and reducing sudden cardiac death by limiting the impact of heart rhythm disturbances.
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Dr. Pierre Le Page
Dr. Andrew RJ Mitchell
Dr. Hamish I MacLachlan
Who to screen for inherited cardiac disorders remains a matter of debate. However, we can expect the public to consult with the question – "Do I have disease “x”"? Here we will review the general methods of how to screen in your office. Next week’s article will review the approach to each condition.
Population screening for inherited cardiac disorders is a matter of heated debate (1-2) however there are guidelines between the American Heart Association (AHA) and European Society of Cardiology (ESC) that screening of high-risk groups such as athletes should occur (3) - the ACC is keeping a more conservative view on the benefits of screening in this population. On the basis that that there is a 2.5 times increased risk of sudden death in this population compared with the general population and that 90% of causes are cardiovascular (4), the 2006 Lausanne recommendations are for pre-participation screening of athletes. This position has also been endorsed by the Olympics Committee and was made mandatory by the Union of European Football Association for those competing in European championships (5). Italian law mandates pre-participation screening of all competitive athletes as well. The cost of the screening is supported however by the athletes themselves, who thereby receive medical clearance to practice their sport competitively . In Veneto, (northern Italy) a screening programme for athletes 12-35 years of age has been in place for over 30 years, and sudden cardiovascular death has decreased among athletes by approximately 90% whilst remaining unchanged in the general population. This outcome is due to early recognition of athletes with cardiomyopathies and exclusion from competitive sport. All athletes were the object of 1) a careful history, 2) a physical examination and 3) an electrocardiogram. A significant reduction in deaths was noted within this programme, nevertheless, it showed a limited ability to detect premature atherosclerosis and coronary artery anomalies. In addition, 9% of those screened required additional testing whereas only 2% were ultimately identified as having a cardiac disorder, thus screening in this manner can lead to false positives, which can heighten patient anxiety and expose them to potentially harmful or unnecessary tests (6). Below (Table 1) are a number of cardiac conditions that can be detected with screening - and estimated frequency. Table 1: Cardiac conditions that can be detected with screening, from most to least frequent.
Whilst concerns regarding cost-effectiveness have generally prevented widespread screening programmes, screening selected individuals referred to the cardiology clinic with a specific question in mind does not have large-scale cost implications.
Here we focus on the general screening methods and specifically, ECG interpretation. Generally, outlines of the constituents of positive screening findings based upon history, physical examination and 12-Lead electrocardiogram are available in the literature (7). Initally, all patients presenting in our offices and asking ‘Do I have disease “x”?’ should be questioned on 1) family history of the specific disease or sudden cardiac death as well (straightforward) as 2) personal history of symptoms (Table 2). Table 2: Italian criteria for a positive personal history (6)
CriteriaSyncope or near syncopeExertional chest pain or discomfortShortness of breath or fatigue out of proportion to the degree of physical effortPalpitations or irregular heartbeatIn turn, to help to prevent unnecessary investigation or conversely false reassurance:
Table 3: European criteria for positive 12 lead electrocardiography (7)
European criteria for positive 12 lead electrocardiographyP waveLeft atrial enlargement: negative portion of P wave in lead V1 of depth ≤0.1 mV and duration ≥0.04 secondsRight atrial enlargement: peaked P wave in leads II and III or V1 of ≥0.25mV amplitude
QRS axis deviation: right ≥120° or left −30° to −90°*Increased voltage: amplitude of R wave or S wave in a standard lead of ≥2mV, S wave in lead V1 or V2 of ≥3mV, or R wave in lead V5 or V6 of ≥3mVPathological Q waves: duration ≥0.04 seconds, or ≥25% of the height of the ensuing R wave, or QS pattern in two or more leadsRight or left bundle branch block with QRS duration of ≥0.12 secondsR or R’ wave in lead V1 ≥0.5 mV in amplitude and R/S ratio of ≥1
ST segment, T waves, and QT intervalST segment depression, T wave flattening, or inversion in two or more leadsProlongation of heart rate corrected QT interval of >0.44 seconds in males and >0.46 seconds in females
Rhythm and conduction abnormalitiesPremature ventricular beats or more severe ventricular arrhythmiasSupraventricular tachycardias, atrial flutter, or atrial fibrillationShort PR interval (<0.12 seconds) with or without ‘delta’ waveSinus bradycardia with resting heart rate ≤40 beats/min (Increasing less than 100 beats/min during limited exercise test)First (PR ≥0.21 seconds - not shortening with hyperventilation or limited exercise test), second or third degree atrioventricular block
Table 4: Training-related vs. training un-related ECG changes (8)
Echocardiography during heart screening can 1) reduce false positives as well as 2) detect myocardial and structural abnormalities that would be missed with only a 12-lead ECG. Nevertheless, echocardiography has not been widely taken up for pre-participation screening and they are additional costs, reduced equipment availability and additional time required for its study. With the development of new portable ultrasound techniques, hand-held echocardiography is starting to be used as an additional resource for screening, particularly in the community setting.
Pre-participation heart screening can reduce the risk of sudden cardiovascular death but there is a recognised false positive rate. It is important to ask about personal symptoms as well as a family history of specific conditions or sudden cardiac death. The European Society of Cardiology recommends performing a 12-lead ECG as part of general screening. Separating ECG findings into training related and non-training related changes will help reduce false positive investigations. Hand-held echocardiography can be quick and effective and potentially reduce the need for more expensive follow-on testing. For a look at genetic testing in cardiomyopathies, you will find a e-journal article. On how to conduct pre-participation screening in athletes, find an article from the EACPR that descibes the steps.
1) Screening of competitive athletes to prevent sudden death. Thiene G et al; Heart 2013;99:304–307. 2) Think Twice.Mackie A; Heart 2013;99:306–307. 3) ACC/AHA/ESC guidelines for management of patients with arrhythmias and the prevention of sudden cardiac death (2006).Zipes et al. Eur Heart J. 2006 Sep;27(17):2099-140 4) Sudden cardiac death in athletes: the Lausanne Recommendations.Bille K, Figueiras D, Schamasch P, Kappenberger L, Brenner JL, Meijboom FJ, Meijboom EJ. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil (2006); 13(6): 859-755) Preparticipation screening for cardiovascular abnormalities in young competitive athletes.Papadakis M, Whyte G, Sharma S. BMJ (2008); 29;337;a1596 6) Trends in sudden cardiovascular death in young competitive athletes after implementation of a preparticipation screening program.Corrado D, Basso C, Pavei A, Michieli P, Schiavon M, Thiene G. JAMA. 2006 Oct 4;296(13):1593-601. 7) Cardiovascular pre-participation screening of young competitive athletes for prevention of sudden death: proposal for a common European protocolConsensus Statement of the Study Group of Sport Cardiology of the Working Group of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Physiology and the Working Group of Myocardial and Pericardial Diseases of the European Society of Cardiology. Corrado et al. European Heart Journal (2005) 26, 516–524. 8) Recommendations for interpretation of 12-lead electrocardiogram in the athlete. Corrado et al. European Heart Journal (2010) 31, 243–259
Pierre Le Page, Hamish I MacLachlan, Andrew RJ Mitchell.Address for correspondence:Dr Andrew RJ Mitchell BM MD FRCP FESC FACCConsultant CardiologistDepartment of CardiologyJersey General HospitalGloucester Street St HelierJersey JE1 3QSChannel Islands T: +44 (0) 1534 442490F: +44 (0) 1534 442266E: email@example.comAuthors' disclosures: None declared.
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