Microvolt T-wave alternans distinguishes between patients likely and patients not likely to benefit from implanted cardiac defibrillator therapy: a solution to the Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial (MADIT) II conundrum

Daniel M Bloomfield, Richard C Steinman, Pearila B Namerow, Michael Parides, Jorge Davidenko, Elizabeth S Kaufman, Timothy Shinn, Anne Curtis, John Fontaine, Douglas Holmes, Andrea Russo, Chuen Tang, J Thomas Bigger
Circulation 2004 October 5, 110 (14): 1885-9

BACKGROUND: In 2003, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services recommended QRS duration as a means to identify MADIT II-like patients suitable for implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD) therapy. We compared the ability of microvolt T-wave alternans and QRS duration to identify groups at high and low risk of dying among heart failure patients who met MADIT II criteria for ICD prophylaxis.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Patients with MADIT II characteristics and sinus rhythm had a microvolt T-wave alternans exercise test and a 12-lead ECG. Our primary end point was 2-year all-cause mortality. Of 177 MADIT II-like patients, 32% had a QRS duration >120 ms, and 68% had an abnormal (positive or indeterminate) microvolt T-wave alternans test. During an average follow-up of 20+/-6 months, 20 patients died. We compared patients with an abnormal microvolt T-wave alternans test to those with a normal (negative) test, and patients with a QRS >120 ms with those with a QRS < or =120 ms; the hazard ratios for 2-year mortality were 4.8 (P=0.020) and 1.5 (P=0.367), respectively. The actuarial mortality rate was substantially lower among patients with a normal microvolt T-wave alternans test (3.8%; 95% confidence interval: 0, 9.0) than the mortality rate in patients with a narrow QRS (12.0%; 95% confidence interval: 5.6, 18.5). The corresponding false-negative rates are 3.5% and 10.2%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Among MADIT II-like patients, a microvolt T-wave alternans test is better than QRS duration at identifying a high-risk group and also better at identifying a low-risk group unlikely to benefit from ICD therapy.

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