Author(s): Ng CT, Ong HY, Cheok C, Chua TS, Ching CK
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Abstract AIMS: Resting 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs) have been employed in the pre-participation evaluation of young asymptomatic subjects to detect pre-existing heart diseases. Although the incorporation of routine ECG in pre-participation screening remains controversial, there is increasing evidence that cardiomyopathies and ion channelopathies have ECG changes as the initial manifestation. The causes of sudden cardiac death in young people show significant geographical variation. We aim to determine the prevalence and spectrum of ECG abnormalities in a young male South-East Asian population. METHODS AND RESULTS: The Singapore Armed Forces Electrocardiogram and Echocardiogram (SAFE) protocol is an ECG-based pre-participation cardiac screening programme modelled after the Italian system. From October 2008 to May 2009, a total of 18 476 young male conscripts (mean age 19.5 years old, range 16-27) underwent mandatory pre-enlistment medical screening at a single medical facility. Subjects with abnormal ECG findings were classified into two groups: Group A had ECG changes that fulfilled a pre-specified checklist to screen for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and were referred for transthoracic echocardiogram; Group B had other ECG abnormalities [such as Brugada pattern, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) pattern, long QTc] and were referred for secondary screening at a tertiary institution. Of the 18 476 subjects screened, 7.0\% (n= 1285) had ECG abnormalities. Of note, 19 (0.10\%) had Brugada pattern, 25 (0.14\%) had WPW pattern, and 31 (0.17\%) had prolonged QT interval on ECG. The prevalence of ECG abnormalities was significantly higher in Chinese than in South Asians (7.2 vs. 5.7\%, P= 0.003). CONCLUSION: The prevalence of ECG abnormalities in a young, South-East Asian male population was 7.0\%. There were significant ethnic differences, with ECG abnormalities more prevalent in Chinese than in South Asians (7.2 vs. 5.7\%, P= 0.003). The inclusion of universal ECG, in addition to history and physical examination, may increase the sensitivity of a cardiovascular screening programme. Knowledge of the spectrum and prevalence of ECG abnormalities and disease conditions would be pivotal in designing customized screening programmes.
This article was published in Europace
and referenced in Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs