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ECG screening of young athletes is cost-effective way to save lives

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Should young American athletes be routinely screened for sudden death? The answer, according to two group of researchers, appears to be yes. As Reuters Health reports this afternoon, two independent studies, both in the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that using an electrocardiogram to screen for sudden death is an effective way to identify at-risk athletes and save lives.

One of the studies comes from Stanford cardiologists, who determined that adding screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - the most common cause of athlete death and something that afflicts one out of every 500 people - and similar ailments would cost just $88 per athlete:

"The cost per participant is pretty reasonable -- less than the cost of a good pair of athletic shoes!" Dr. Mark Hlatky of Stanford University, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

The findings, as explained in a release, show that screening is “reasonable in cost and effective at saving lives," and "challenge the conventional wisdom" that routine ECGs in the U.S. would be too expensive. They could also pave the way to the adoption of widespread screening like in Italy; routine ECG screening of young athletes there has been mandatory since 1982.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

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