Background: Although ST-segment deviation has been evaluated and used during many years both on continuous electrocardiographic Holter monitoring and during exercise stress testing, considerable controversy still remains concerning the prevalence and diagnostic significance of fortuitously discovered ST-segment deviation in asymptomatic healthy persons.
Methods and results: The occurrence of ST-segment deviation was studied in a population of 63 clinically healthy male subjects 51 to 75 years of age, with the use of 24-hour Holter monitoring and exercise stress testing. The subjects were recruited from the Copenhagen City Heart Study and were without cardiovascular risk factors, chronic diseases, or medication and without cardiovascular events during 5 to 12 years before and 3 to 5 years after admission. The specificity, that is, the probability of displaying a negative test result in healthy subjects without disease, was 1.0 when using as criterion for significant ST-segment deviation a horizontal or descending ST-segment depression of >0.20 mV or ST-segment elevation >/=0.15 mV during Holter monitoring, and acceptable, for example, 0.95, when using as criterion a horizontal or descending ST-segment depression of >/=0.15 mV during Holter monitoring or at the exercise test, respectively. Furthermore, the specificity was 0.95 when a horizontal or downsloping ST-segment depression of 0.1 mV was displayed in both the Holter and exercise electrocardiographic recording system.
Conclusions: Thus in asymptomatic persons, the usual criterion for significant ST-segment depression of 0.1 mV can be applied when occurring in both electrocardiographic recording systems. However, if one test alone is used, the criterion of significant ST-segment depression should be 0.15 mV. Absence of ST-segment deviation during Holter monitoring and exercise stress testing, indicated with a specificity of 1.0 or 0.95 according to choice of criterion, implies that the person is in a healthy state.