JOURNAL ARTICLE
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An assessment of the electrocardiogram as a screening test for large atrial septal defects in children.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The electrocardiogram (ECG) is commonly used as a screening tool for diagnosis of the ostium secundum atrial septal defect (ASD). We sought to analyze the utility of conventional ECG criteria in detecting right ventricular enlargement (RVE) due to the presence of an ASD.

METHODS: Patients who underwent transcatheter or surgical closure of an isolated ASD between 1997 and 2004 were included if an ECG was performed less than 9 months before ASD closure and had echocardiographic RVE.

RESULTS: Of 99 children (aged 6.8 +/- 4.7 years; range, 1-18 years) with RVE and ASD, 57% had an ECG that met 1 or more RVE criteria. The sensitivity of ECG increased to 70% in younger patients and to 80% for the largest defects.

CONCLUSIONS: Electrocardiographic criteria for RVE are present in just more than over half of young patients with large ASDs. Although ECG is more sensitive in younger patients, it is unreliable as a screen for this lesion.

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