Testing hearts to prevent athlete death

2009-02-05

in Science

If you engage in a lot of competitive sports of high-intensity physical exercise, it may be a good idea to get an electrocardiogram (EKG) to test for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which a portion of the heart muscle becomes unusually thick. Since Italy started routinely giving the test to atheletes between 12 and 35, cases of sudden death among athletes fell by 90%.

The test costs about $50, for those without insurance.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Litty February 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Are these tests free in Canada?

oleh February 7, 2009 at 2:38 am

The tests cannot be free as we pay the doctor who orders it (and her/his staff and rent), the technician who administers it (and for the facility in which it occurs and the cardiologist who reads it.

Health care in Canada is not free. It is paid for by taxes and premium payers.

I am concerned when we forget that.

On the other hand I believe preventive diagnostic tests like EKG can be very useful. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our healthcare budget is already too heavily spent on illness and sickness than prevention and health.

Milan February 7, 2009 at 9:03 am

True, and important to remember.

That said, the linked article indicates that the cost to single-payer healthcare systems is significantly lower than the retail cost of the test to individuals. It also indicates that the incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is about one in 300. At that level of frequency, it does seem like a case can be made that those who engage in frequent strenuous activity should be tested. An EKG could also turn up other conditions that are threatening to such people.

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