Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Some supraventricular tachyarrhythmias (SVT), particularly if paroxysmal and/or related to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW), may in some cases endanger an athlete's professional career due to hemodynamic consequences during athletic activity, which in some instances may be life-threatening. One must also take into account that in Italy the law makes antiarrhythmic drug treatment (AAD) incompatible with sport eligibility. For these reasons, the utilization of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in athletes has different indications as opposed to the normal population, since the primary goal is“the eligibility of the athlete.” In our study, we discuss the criteria for indication of RFA in athletes with SVT on the basis of the data obtained from our population of athletes, studied over a 20-year period, from 1974 to the 31st of December 1993. These athletes were evaluated for arrhythmic events, utilizing a standardized cardioatrhythmological protocol: 1,325 athletes (1,125 men, 200 women, mean age 20.7 years). One subgroup included 380 athletes with WPW (28.7%), 22 athletes with aborted sudden death (1.6%), 6 of whom had WPW, 13 athletes with sudden death (0.98%), and 2 of whom had WPW. Another subgroup was formed by 116 top level elite professional athletes (TLA) (mean age 22.9 years), of which 10 of 116 (8.6%) had WPW and 12 of 116 (10.3%) had paroxysmal SVT. The most important indications for RFA in athletes are represented by: WPW asymptomatic at risk, symptomatic during athletic activity, andlor requiring AAD treatment: paroxysmal junctional reentrant tachycardia; when this condition is disabling and related to exercise and therefore compromising an athlete's performance and sports career. Paroxysmal junctional reentrant tachycardia is easily reproduced via transesophageal atrial pacing (TAP) during exercise (bicycle ergometer), common in athletes but normally the recurrences are concentrated only during the period in which the athlete is engaged in sport. Rare indications for RFA are focal or reentry, permanent SVT, and particularly junctional reentrant tachycardia. For each individual athlete, we have to consider the possible side-effects of RFA, the possible recurrences with psychobiological traumatic consequences, the effective recovery period, and the natural history of the tachyarrhythmias, which frequently disappear after interruption of the sports career.
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