T-wave abnormalities are a better predictor of cardiovascular mortality than ST depression on the resting electrocardiogram

Ann Noninvasive Electrocardiol. 2005 Apr;10(2):146-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1542-474X.2005.05607.x.


Background: ST depression and T-wave amplitude abnormalities are known to be independent predictors of cardiovascular (CV) death, but a direct comparison between them has not been described.

Methods: Analyses were performed on the first electrocardiogram (ECG) digitally recorded on 46,950 consecutive patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center since 1987. Females and patients with electrocardiograms exhibiting bundle branch block, left ventricular hypertrophy, electronic pacing, diagnostic Q waves, or Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome were excluded, leaving 31,074 male patients for analysis (mean age 55 +/- 14). There were 1878 (6.0%) cardiovascular deaths (mean follow-up of 6 +/- 4 years). Electrocardiograms were classified using Minnesota code according to the degree of ST depression and T-wave abnormality, and the nine possible combinations of ST segment and T-wave abnormalities were recoded for analysis.

Results: The combination of major abnormalities in ST segments and T-waves carried the greatest hazard [3.2 (CI 2.7-3.8)]. Minor ST depression combined with more severe T-wave abnormalities carried a hazard of 3.1 (CI 2.5-3.7), whereas minor T-wave abnormalities combined with more severe ST depression carried a hazard of only 1.9 (CI 1.6-2.3).

Conclusion: While both ST segment depression and abnormal T-wave amplitude are clinically important, T-wave abnormalities appear to be greater predictors of cardiovascular mortality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests