EuroEcho: Echo finds cardiac issues in athletes

Echocardiography with conventional M-mode and 2D modalities is a cost-effective way to screen athletes for previously undiscovered cardiac problems, according to research presented Friday at EuroEcho-Imaging 2013 in Istanbul.

Dr. Alexander Kisko from Presov, Slovakia, and colleagues evaluated 500 healthy athletes between the ages of 16 and 32 (average age 21.5 years) from 2011-2013. Study participants included 446 males and 54 females participating in sports such as football, athletics, handball, cycling, basketball, and gymnastics.

All athletes were screened, and no cardiovascular abnormalities were detected in any of the athletes.

The standard protocol was not accurate or sensitive enough to pick up potentially life-threatening cardiovascular defects, but the addition of M-mode and 2D echo exams discovered abnormalities in 14 athletes (2.8%).

Seven individuals (1.4%) had mitral valve prolapse, three people (0.6%) had bicuspid aortic valve, and four athletes (0.8%) had myocarditis, myocardial bridging, noncompaction of the left ventricle, or coronary artery fistula.

Abnormalities found in four athletes through conventional echo required them to stop sports temporarily or permanently.

Kisko said that sudden cardiac death in young and apparently healthy athletes is considered rare, but there is evidence that deaths occur as often as once every three days. These deaths are usually caused by undiagnosed cardiovascular abnormalities, but diagnostic screening is considered too expensive and is delivered sporadically.

The medical community must become more involved in reducing the incidence and prevalence of sudden cardiac death through an improved preparticipation screening process, Kisko added.

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