Objectives: This study was conducted to assess the usefulness of a screening system for cardiovascular disease in Kagoshima, Japan, and to compare its cost-effectiveness with that of a similar system reported in the United States.
Background: Preparticipation screening of young athletes has been implemented in many countries to prevent sudden death, but sudden death in young nonathletes remains a problem. In Japan, both athletes and nonathletes have been screened for the presence or absence of cardiovascular diseases for more than 20 yr.
Methods: From 1989 to 1997, all seventh graders in schools in Kagoshima, Japan, were screened for cardiovascular disease using a questionnaire and electrocardiogram before physical examination. They were screened again in the same way 3 yr later. One subject newly diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and recommended to limit athletic participation was defined as "high-risk." Situations leading to cases of sudden death were verified with a report from the school in question.
Results: Of the initial study population, 99% participated in the program every year. A total of 37,807 subjects, including nine high-risk subjects, were evaluated consecutively for 6 yr. Of these nine subjects, six, including three patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, were nonathletes. Three sudden deaths occurred during the study period; one student was from the high-risk group. The cost of this screening system was lower than that reported in the United States.
Conclusions: Population-based screening for heart disease in this age range is limited by various factors. To analyze the mechanisms of sudden death in adolescents, we, therefore, are in need of a nationwide registry that includes autopsies for all deadly events.