Prognostic value of T-wave alternans in patients with heart failure due to nonischemic cardiomyopathy: results of the ALPHA Study

Jorge A Salerno-Uriarte, Gaetano M De Ferrari, Catherine Klersy, Roberto F E Pedretti, Massimo Tritto, Luciano Sallusti, Luigi Libero, Giacinto Pettinati, Giulio Molon, Antonio Curnis, Eraldo Occhetta, Fabrizio Morandi, Paolo Ferrero, Francesco Accardi et al.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2007 November 6, 50 (19): 1896-904

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to assess the prognostic value of T-wave alternans (TWA) in New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class II/III patients with nonischemic cardiomyopathy and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) < or =40%.

BACKGROUND: There is a strong need to identify reliable risk stratifiers among heart failure candidates for implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) prophylaxis. T-wave alternans may identify low-risk subjects among post-myocardial infarction patients with depressed LVEF, but its predictive role in nonischemic cardiomyopathy is unclear.

METHODS: Four hundred forty-six patients were enrolled and followed up for 18 to 24 months. The primary end point was the combination of cardiac death + life-threatening arrhythmias; secondary end points were total mortality and the combination of arrhythmic death + life-threatening arrhythmias.

RESULTS: Patients with abnormal TWA (65%) compared with normal TWA (35%) tests were older (60 +/- 13 years vs. 57 +/- 12 years), were more frequently in NYHA functional class III (22% vs. 19%), and had a modestly lower LVEF (29 +/- 7% vs. 31 +/- 7%). Primary end point rates in patients with abnormal and normal TWA tests were 6.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.5% to 9.4%) and 1.6% (95% CI 0.6% to 4.4%), respectively. Unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios were 4.0 (95% CI 1.4% to 11.4%; p = 0.002) and 3.2 (95% CI 1.1% to 9.2%; p = 0.013), respectively. Hazard ratios for total mortality and for arrhythmic death + life-threatening arrhythmias were 4.6 (p = 0.002) and 5.5 (p = 0.004), respectively; 18-month negative predictive values for the 3 end points ranged between 97.3% and 98.6%.

CONCLUSIONS: Among NYHA functional class II/III nonischemic cardiomyopathy patients, an abnormal TWA test is associated with a 4-fold higher risk of cardiac death and life-threatening arrhythmias. Patients with normal TWA tests have a very good prognosis and are likely to benefit little from ICD therapy.

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