Purpose of review: Sudden cardiac death remains a major cause of mortality among patients with cardiomyopathy and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy has been shown to improve survival in these patients. Effective use of prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy requires accurate risk stratification beyond assessment of ejection fraction, however. Repolarization alternans is a harbinger of ventricular arrhythmias and its measurement from body-surface recordings, also known as microvolt T-wave alternans, is emerging as an effective prognostic tool in these patients based on recent clinical trials.
Recent findings: We review the pathogenesis and determinants of repolarization alternans. The current techniques for measuring T-wave alternans from the body surface are compared, including the spectral and modified moving average methods. Recent clinical trials evaluating the prognostic utility of T-wave alternans in patients with ischemic and nonischemic cardiomyopathy and no prior arrhythmic events are summarized. The findings of these studies are discussed in the context of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator prophylaxis. Body-surface T-wave alternans is an evolving technique and its limitations are presented along with approaches to improve its predictive accuracy.
Summary: Risk stratification with T-wave alternans has the potential to guide prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy in a growing population of patients with cardiomyopathy.