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Newborn ECGs Urged to Detect Long QT Syndrome

Screening of newborns would detect many cases and other congenital heart diseases

THURSDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Routine electrocardiogram (ECG) screening of newborns would be a cost-effective way to detect long QT syndrome (LQTS) and save many lives, according to a study published online July 13 in the European Heart Journal.

Peter J. Schwartz, M.D., of the University of Pavia in Italy, and colleagues performed ECG on 45,000 newborns and estimated the prevalence of LQTS at about one in 2,500, significantly higher than previous estimates of one in 5,000-20,000. The screening also picked up four cases of two other life-threatening conditions: coarctation of the aorta and anomalous origin of the left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery.

The researchers calculated that routine ECG screening for LQTS would save up to 230-250 lives a year in 15 European countries at a cost of 11,740 euros per year of life saved and 820,000 euros for saving one 70-year life. After accounting for the two other conditions, they calculated a cost of about 7,000 euros per year-of-life saved and about 490,000 euros for saving one 70-year life.

"An ECG performed in the first month of life will allow the early identification of still asymptomatic infants with LQTS and also of infants with some correctable congenital heart diseases not recognized by routine neonatal examinations," the authors conclude. "Appropriate therapy will prevent unnecessary deaths in infants, children and young adults."

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