Results showed that almost one-in-ten of the population (9.4%) were sent for echocardiography on the day, and 2.7% (323 individuals) were referred for further assessment. Of these who responded to the questionnaire and completed their follow-up investigations (189), a cardiac pathology (or findings necessitating regular follow-up) were identified in 31 (16%). The most common were heart block (10), irregular heart rhythm (9) and valvular heart disease (6). Different cardiomyopathies were evident in 11 cases.
These pathologies were identified following an average of 1.6 further investigations, which included echo, 24-hour ECG and exercise testing.
Commenting on the results, Dr Narain said that the concept of early identification of potential victims is still a highly controversial issue. "Those opposed question the cost effectiveness of pre-participation screening and the need for multiple investigations to identify so many disease processes implicated in sudden cardiac death," he said, adding that there are also concerns about the medical and legal implications of false positive and negative results.
However, by applying such a screening programme as the one investigated here, Dr Nairn said that many of the sudden deaths from these conditions, which number around 15 per week in the UK, can be prevented.
"Fortunately," said Dr Narain, "the incidence of SCD, especially in people doing sports, is low, so several thousand athletes have to be assessed to identify the one who might die suddenly. But despite their rarity, such events are highly visible, particularly when high-profile athletes are involved. The cardiac arrest of the footballer Fabrice Muamba last year is just one example of the societal impact of such tragedies."
Population screening to prevent SCD in young people is "possible and achievable" said Dr Narain, who added:
|Contact: ESC Press Office|
European Society of Cardiology