Exercise-induced changes in the QT interval duration and dispersion in patients with sudden cardiac death after myocardial infarction

G Yi, R Crook, X H Guo, A Staunton, A J Camm, M Malik
International Journal of Cardiology 1998 February 28, 63 (3): 271-9

BACKGROUND: Prolongation of the QT interval and increased QT dispersion have been proposed to be associated with arrhythmic risk after myocardial infarction. However, controversy remains regarding the prognostic value of ventricular repolarization abnormalities in the risk stratification of patients surviving acute myocardial infarction. HYPOTHESIS AND OBJECTIVE: The QT interval is sensitive to myocardial ischaemia, and exercise-induced ischaemia may change the QT interval regionally, resulting in increased QT dispersion. This study examined whether there are abnormalities of ventricular repolarization during exercise and whether assessment of the exercise-induced changes in QT interval duration and dispersion would be able to differentiate patients at high risk from those at low risk of sudden cardiac death after myocardial infarction.

METHODS: Twenty-six post-myocardial infarction patients (mean age 54.5+/-8.9 years, 22 men) were retrospectively studied. Thirteen patients who died suddenly (SCD patients) during a follow-up of 39+/-6 months were compared to 13 patients who remained event-free, i.e. no ventricular tachyarrhythmias, no reinfarction, no by-pass (MI survivors). The two groups were pair-matched for age, gender, site of infarction, left ventricular ejection fraction and use of beta blocker. A further 13 patients with chest pain, normal coronary arteriograms and negative exercise test results were studied as controls. They were age and gender matched with the post-infarction patients. A 12-lead exercise ECG was recorded from each patient before, during and after exercise. QT and RR interval were measured on the exercise ECGs at each stage and QT dispersion was defined as the difference between the maximum and minimum QT intervals across the 12-lead ECG.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in RR, QT and QTc (Bazett's and Fridericia's correction) intervals, or QT dispersion between any groups before exercise. A significant difference in QT and QT dispersion was found at peak exercise between post-infarction patients and controls (P=0.03 and P=0.0001, respectively), but no difference was observed between SCD patients and MI survivors. The maximum QTc at peak exercise was longer in SCD patients compared with MI survivors (P=0.02) and a maximum QTc>440 ms (Bazett's correction) was common in SCD patients but not in MI survivors or controls (62%, 15%, 15%, P=0.01). The differences in QT, QTc or QT dispersion observed at peak exercise were no longer significant after exercise.

CONCLUSIONS: Exercise-induced prolongation of the QTc interval differentiates patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death from those at low risk, whereas exercise-induced changes in QT dispersion failed to identify patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death after myocardial infarction.

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