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Right bundle branch block, persistent ST segment elevation and sudden cardiac death: a distinct clinical and electrocardiographic syndrome. A multicenter report.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to present data on eight patients with recurrent episodes of aborted sudden death unexplainable by currently known diseases whose common clinical and electrocardiographic (ECG) features define them as having a distinct syndrome different from idiopathic ventricular fibrillation.

BACKGROUND: Among patients with ventricular arrhythmias who have no structural heart disease, several subgroups have been defined. The present patients constitute an additional subgroup with these findings.

METHODS: The study group consisted of eight patients, six male and two female, with recurrent episodes of aborted sudden death. Clinical and laboratory data and results of electrocardiography, electrophysiology, echocardiography, angiography, histologic study and exercise testing were available in most cases.

RESULTS: The ECG during sinus rhythm showed right bundle branch block, normal QT interval and persistent ST segment elevation in precordial leads V1 to V2-V3 not explainable by electrolyte disturbances, ischemia or structural heart disease. No histologic abnormalities were found in the four patients in whom ventricular biopsies were performed. The arrhythmia leading to (aborted) sudden death was a rapid polymorphic ventricular tachycardia initiating after a short coupled ventricular extrasystole. A similar arrhythmia was initiated by two to three ventricular extrastimuli in four of the seven patients studied by programmed electrical stimulation. Four patients had a prolonged HV interval during sinus rhythm. One patient receiving amiodarone died suddenly during implantation of a demand ventricular pacemaker. The arrhythmia of two patients was controlled with a beta-adrenergic blocking agent. Four patients received an implantable defibrillator that was subsequently used by one of them, and all four are alive. The remaining patient received a demand ventricular pacemaker and his arrhythmia is controlled with amiodarone and diphenylhydantoin.

CONCLUSIONS: Common clinical and ECG features define a distinct syndrome in this group of patients. Its causes remain unknown.

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