IMPORTANCE Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States.
OBJECTIVE To review the evidence on screening asymptomatic adults for CVD risk using electrocardiography (ECG) to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.
DATA SOURCES MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and trial registries through May 2017; references; experts; literature surveillance through April 4, 2018.
STUDY SELECTION English-language randomized clinical trials (RCTs); prospective cohort studies reporting reclassification, calibration, or discrimination that compared risk assessment using ECG plus traditional risk factors vs traditional risk factors alone. For harms, additional study designs were eligible. Studies of persons with symptoms or a CVD diagnosis were excluded.
DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS Dual review of abstracts, full-text articles, and study quality; qualitative synthesis of findings. MAIN
OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Mortality, cardiovascular events, reclassification, calibration, discrimination, and harms.
RESULTS Sixteen studies were included (N = 77 140). Two RCTs (n = 1151) found no significant improvement for screening with exercise ECG (vs no screening) in adults aged 50 to 75 years with diabetes for the primary cardiovascular composite outcomes (hazard ratios, 1.00 [95% CI, 0.59-1.71] and 0.85 [95% CI, 0.39-1.84] for each study). No RCTs evaluated screening with resting ECG. Evidence from 5 cohort studies (n = 9582) showed that adding exercise ECG to traditional risk factors such as age, sex, current smoking, diabetes, total cholesterol level, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level produced small improvements in discrimination (absolute improvements in area under the curve [AUC] or C statistics, 0.02-0.03, reported by 3 studies); whether calibration or appropriate risk classification improves is uncertain. Evidence from 9 cohort studies (n = 66 407) showed that adding resting ECG to traditional risk factors produced small improvements in discrimination (absolute improvement in AUC or C statistics, 0.001-0.05) and appropriate risk classification for prediction of multiple cardiovascular outcomes, although evidence was limited by imprecision, quality, considerable heterogeneity, and inconsistent use of risk thresholds used for clinical decision making. Total net reclassification improvements ranged from 3.6%(2.7% event; 0.6% nonevent) to30%(17% event; 19% nonevent) for studies using the Framingham Risk Score or Pooled Cohort Equations base models. Evidence on potential harms (eg, from subsequent angiography or revascularization) in asymptomatic persons was limited.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE RCTs of screening with exercise ECG found no improvement in health outcomes, despite focusing on higher-risk populations with diabetes. The addition of resting ECG to traditional risk factors accurately reclassified persons, but evidence for this finding had many limitations. The frequency of harms from screening is uncertain.