Heart Screening for Pilots "Not Efficacious"

The time and money involved in screening echocardiography of stress testing in asymptomatic individuals with no cardiac risk factors is likely not worth it, an analysis of the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine's database found

The time and money involved in screening echocardiography of stress testing in asymptomatic individuals with no cardiac risk factors is likely not worth it, an analysis of the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s database found.

Reporting at the American College of Cardiology meeting in San Diego, CA, Eddie Davenport, MD reported on 1.2 million cardiac studies done of over 283,000 aviators. Davenport is the US Air Force Surgeon General's Chief Consultant for Aerospace Cardiology.

He also looked at more than 20,000 consecutive screening echocardiograms on pilot applicants and a subset of 903 nuclear imaging tests on asymptomatic aviators.

Though some heart problems were found (154 with mild aortic insufficiency; mild cases of mitral regurgitation in 51 patients, and trileaflet aortic valve disorders in 58 patients) a permanently disqualifying disorder was found in only 9 cases.

Because of the small numbers of cardiac problems found, “it is not efficacious to perform screening echocardiography or stress testing in asymptomatic individuals with no cardiac risk factors,” Davenport wrote.

The finding likely would apply to the practice of screening applicants for other high-risk occupations and to routine screening of athletes who are healthy, he said.

The study will be presented Sunday, March 15 at a poster session.