Association of early repolarization and sudden cardiac death during an acute coronary event

Jani T Tikkanen, Viktor Wichmann, M Juhani Junttila, Meri Rainio, Eeva Hookana, Olli-Pekka Lappi, Marja-Leena Kortelainen, Olli Anttonen, Heikki V Huikuri
Circulation. Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology 2012 August 1, 5 (4): 714-8

BACKGROUND: Electrocardiographic early repolarization (ER) pattern has been previously associated with arrhythmic mortality and with an increased risk of ventricular fibrillation. We hypothesized that there is an association between ER and sudden cardiac death (SCD) during an acute coronary event.

METHODS AND RESULTS: The present study included 432 consecutive victims of SCD because of acute coronary event and 532 survivors of such an event, in whom 12-lead ECGs recorded before and unrelated to the event could be evaluated. SCDs were verified by medicolegal autopsy to be because of acute coronary event. ER was defined as an elevation of the QRS-ST junction in at least 2 inferior or lateral leads, manifested as QRS notching or slurring. The prevalence of ER pattern ≥0.1 mV was more common in cases (62/432; 14.4%) than controls (42/532; 7.9%) (P=0.001). The victims of SCD were younger, were more commonly men and smokers, had lower body mass index, had elevated heart rate, had prolonged QRS complex, and had lower prevalence of history of prior cardiovascular disease than controls. After adjustments for baseline differences, the odds ratio for J waves without ST-segment elevation in the SCD group was 2.15 (95% CI, 1.20-3.85; P=0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Higher prevalence of ER in a standard 12-lead ECG in victims of SCD than in survivors of an acute coronary event suggests that the presence of ER increases the vulnerability to fatal arrhythmia during acute myocardial ischemia and provides a plausible mechanistic link between this ECG pattern and higher arrhythmic mortality of middle-aged/elderly subjects.

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