Study objectives: To determine the utility of the ECG for predicting clinical status in adults with primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) or pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) secondary to collagen vascular disease.
Design: Retrospective study.
Setting: Outpatient clinic in a tertiary referral center.
Patients: Adult outpatients with PPH or PAH secondary to collagen vascular disease who underwent electrocardiography within 30 days of undergoing right-heart catheterization, echocardiography, and 6-min walk testing.
Measurements and results: The following measurements were recorded from each ECG: P-wave amplitude in lead II; mean frontal QRS axis; QRS duration; R-wave and S-wave deflections in leads I and V6; and the T-wave configurations in the precordial leads. These ECG variables were correlated with hemodynamic variables, RV size, and exercise capacity. Of the 61 patients included in this study, 56 (92%) were women. Eight of 61 patients (13%) had normal findings on ECGs. There was no significant difference in the demographics or hemodynamics when comparing groups with normal vs abnormal ECGs. All ECG parameters had no more than moderate correlation with hemodynamic variables, ventricular size measured by echocardiogram, and exercise capacity as measured by a 6-min walk. The best correlation was between mean the frontal QRS axis and cardiac index (r = -0.46).
Conclusions: The ECG is an inadequate screening tool to rule out the presence of clinically relevant pulmonary hypertension, either primary or secondary to collagen vascular disease. The mean frontal QRS axis correlated best with the severity of hemodynamic impairment.