Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of pediatric cardiologists' interpretations of electrocardiograms (ECGs).
Study design: A series of 18 ECGs that represented conditions causing pediatric sudden cardiac death or normal hearts were interpreted by 53 members of the Western Society of Pediatric Cardiology. Gold-standard diagnoses and recommendations were determined by 2 electrophysiologists (100% concordance).
Results: The average number of correct ECG interpretations per respondent was 12.4 ± 2.2 (69%, range 34%-98%). Respondents achieved a sensitivity of 68% and a specificity of 70% for recognition of any abnormality. The false-positive and false-negative rates were 30% and 32%, respectively. Based on actual ECG diagnosis, sports participation was accurately permitted in 74% of cases and accurately restricted in 81% of cases. Respondents gave correct sports guidance most commonly in cases of long QT syndrome and myocarditis (98% and 90%, respectively) and least commonly in cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, and pulmonary hypertension (80%, 64%, and 38%, respectively). Respondents ordered more follow-up tests than did experts.
Conclusions: Preparticipation screening ECGs are difficult to interpret. Mistakes in ECG interpretation could lead to high rates of inappropriate sports guidance. A consequence of diagnostic error is overuse of ancillary diagnostic tests.
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