Inter- and intraobserver variability in LVH and RVH reporting in pediatric ECGs

R M Hamilton, K McLeod, A B Houston, P W Macfarlane
Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology 2005, 10 (3): 330-3

BACKGROUND: Physicians' diagnoses are often used as the gold standard for evaluating computer electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation programs. As part of a larger study to evaluate the Glasgow pediatric ECG analysis program, inter- and intraobserver variability in the ECG reporting of two pediatric cardiologists was examined.

METHODS: The ECGs of 984 children were sent for reporting independently by two cardiologists with all identifying information except age and sex removed. Three hundred twenty ECGs had no clinical indication available, and they were thus reported "blind." For 664 ECGs, the clinical indication was known and included with the ECG trace. All ECGs reported as right ventricular hypertrophy (RVH) or left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) were returned to the cardiologists without their knowledge for reporting a second time "blind" as to the clinical indication.

RESULTS: When the cardiologists' reports were compared with each other, the provision of clinical information led to greater agreement between them for the diagnosis of LVH (kappa increased from 0.44 to 0.52) but did not substantially affect their agreement in diagnosing RVH (kappa fell from 0.66 to 0.63). Intraindividual comparisons in 166 ECGs revealed that one cardiologist was more consistent in diagnosing RVH and the other more consistent in diagnosing LVH.

CONCLUSIONS: This study has demonstrated the difficulties in using cardiologists' diagnoses as the gold standard with which to evaluate pediatric ECGs.

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