Background: Sudden death can occur as a consequence of cardiac-conduction abnormalities in the neuromuscular disease myotonic dystrophy type 1. The determinants of the risk of sudden death remain imprecise.
Methods: We assessed whether the electrocardiogram (ECG) was useful in predicting sudden death in 406 adult patients with genetically confirmed myotonic dystrophy type 1. A patient was characterized as having a severe abnormality if the ECG had at least one of the following features: rhythm other than sinus, PR interval of 240 msec or more, QRS duration of 120 msec or more, or second-degree or third-degree atrioventricular block.
Results: Patients with severe abnormalities according to the entry ECG were older than patients without severe abnormalities, had more severe skeletal-muscle impairment, and were more likely to have heart failure, left ventricular systolic dysfunction, or atrial tachyarrhythmia. Such patients were more likely to receive a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator during the follow-up period. During a mean follow-up period of 5.7 years, 81 patients died; there were 27 sudden deaths, 32 deaths from progressive neuromuscular respiratory failure, 5 nonsudden deaths from cardiac causes, and 17 deaths from other causes. Among the 17 patients who died suddenly in whom postcollapse rhythm was evaluated, a ventricular tachyarrhythmia was observed in 9. A severe ECG abnormality (relative risk, 3.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24 to 8.78) and a clinical diagnosis of atrial tachyarrhythmia (relative risk, 5.18; 95% CI, 2.28 to 11.77) were independent risk factors for sudden death.
Conclusions: Patients with adult myotonic dystrophy type 1 are at high risk for arrhythmias and sudden death. A severe abnormality on the ECG and a diagnosis of an atrial tachyarrhythmia predict sudden death. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00622453.)
2008 Massachusetts Medical Society