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Am J Cardiol. 1995 Oct 1;76(10):689-94.

The standard electrocardiogram as a screening test for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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Department of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, United Kingdom.


Phenotypic heterogeneity in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HC) makes definitive diagnosis difficult, particularly during family screening. We studied the electrocardiogram (ECG) as a potential initial screening test in patients with HC. Using accepted diagnostic criteria, we examined the ECGs and echocardiograms of 159 patients with a confirmed clinical or genetic diagnosis of HC. An abnormal ECG was found in 154 patients (97%) while only 146 (92%) showed an abnormal echocardiogram. Of the former, 9 patients (6%) had normal echocardiograms and had been diagnosed on the basis of identification of a mutation in the beta myosin heavy chain gene (n = 8) or obligate carrier status (n = 1). Only 1 of these 9 patients was under age 20, the time at which hypertrophy is normally expressed on the echocardiogram. The remaining 5 patients (3%) without ECG abnormality consisted of 1 patient with an echocardiogram clearly diagnostic of HC and 4 clinically normal patients (aged 13, 24, 29, and 33 years) with normal echocardiograms who had been diagnosed by mutation identification (n = 3) or obligate carrier status (n = 1). Thus only these latter 4 patients (3%) would not have been diagnosed as having HC based on an abnormal ECG and/or abnormal echocardiogram. Screening relatives for HC by ECG criteria alone detects all those whom an echocardiogram will diagnose. While echocardiography aids in the specificity of HC diagnosis, the ECG, within the context of a family with a proven case of HC, is a more sensitive marker of the disease. It is therefore both a cost-effective and useful tool for screening those to proceed to echocardiography.

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