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Accuracy and Variability of Cardiologist Interpretation of Single Lead Electrocardiograms for Atrial Fibrillation: the VITAL-AF Trial.

BACKGROUND: Screening for atrial fibrillation (AF) using consumer-based devices capable of producing a single lead electrocardiogram (1L ECG) is increasing. There are limited data on the accuracy of physician interpretation of these tracings. The goal of this study is to assess the sensitivity, specificity, confidence, and variability of cardiologist interpretation of point-of-care 1L ECGs.

METHODS: Fifteen cardiologists reviewed point-of-care handheld 1L ECGs collected from patients aged 65 years or older enrolled in the VITAL-AF clinical trial [NCT035115057] who underwent cardiac rhythm assessments with a 1L ECG using an AliveCor KardiaMobile device. Random sampling of 1L ECGs for cardiologist review was stratified by the AliveCor algorithm interpretation. A 12L ECG performed on the same day for clinical purposes was used as the gold standard. Cardiologists each reviewed a common sample of 200 1L ECG tracings and completed a survey associated with each tracing. Cardiologists were blinded to both the AliveCor algorithm and same day 12L ECG interpretation. For each tracing, study cardiologists were asked to assess the rhythm (sinus rhythm, AF, unclassifiable), report their assessment of the quality of the tracing, and rate their confidence in rhythm interpretation. The outcomes included the sensitivity, specificity, variability, and confidence in physician interpretation. Variables associated with each measure were identified using multivariable regression.

RESULTS: The average sensitivity for AF was 77.4% (range 50% to 90.6%, standard deviation [SD]=11.4%) and the average specificity was 73.0% (range 41.3%-94.6%, SD=15.4%). The mean variability was 30.8% (range 0% - 76.2%, SD=23.2%). The average reviewer confidence of 1L ECG rhythm assessment was 3.6 out of 5 (range 2.5 - 4.2, SD=0.6). Patient and tracing factors associated with sensitivity, specificity, variability, and confidence were identified and included age, body mass index, and presence of artifact.

CONCLUSION: Cardiologist interpretation of point-of-care 1L ECGs has modest diagnostic sensitivity and specificity with substantial variability for AF classification despite high confidence. Variability in cardiologist interpretation of 1L ECGs highlights the importance of confirmatory testing for diagnosing AF.

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