My response to "screening" EKG’s

Last week, an article brought to light a company that offered “screening” EKG’s to asymptomatic patients. My letter in response to this was published today in the Nashua Telegraph:

HealthScreen America’s “screening EKG” as described in The Telegraph on July 6 is a microcosm of a disturbingly misleading trend. Contrary to popular belief, more tests do not necessarily equal better medicine.

EKGs certainly have their place in the diagnostic workup ““ for people with chest pain suggestive of a heart attack, for instance. However, in the absence of any symptoms, an EKG by itself is not sensitive nor specific enough to confidently rule out any heart disease.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends against routine EKG screening in the asymptomatic population.

People should not be comforted by a normal screening EKG. They are simply wasting their money and lulled into a false sense of security.

Discussion of any heart-related concerns should be made with their personal physician, so an appropriate workup can be initiated.

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  • Anonymous

    I read somewhere that EKG’s may detect signs of the hypertrophic septal cardiomyopathy that presents as sudden death in teenagers, and that it might not be a bad idea to add them to an athletic physical. I am a pathologist so this is hardly my specialty, but I have a teenager. True or false?

  • Mike

    ECHO! Not EKG.

  • Justin

    The statement above is FALSE. The latest research says the EKG is the best initial marker of HCM, whereas echo is the best at diagnosis once LVH has manifested.

    See Corrado et al, Eur Heart Journal 2005, Cardiovascular Pre-Participation Screening…, and see British Journal of Sports Medicine, 18 Jan 2008; Conclusion: Family and personal history are inadequate and EKG is PARAMOUNT!

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