Background: Early repolarization, which is characterized by an elevation of the QRS-ST junction (J point) in leads other than V(1) through V(3) on 12-lead electrocardiography, has been associated with vulnerability to ventricular fibrillation, but little is known about the prognostic significance of this pattern in the general population.
Methods: We assessed the prevalence and prognostic significance of early repolarization on 12-lead electrocardiography in a community-based general population of 10,864 middle-aged subjects (mean [+/-SD] age, 44+/-8 years). The primary end point was death from cardiac causes, and secondary end points were death from any cause and death from arrhythmia during a mean follow-up of 30+/-11 years. Early repolarization was stratified according to the degree of J-point elevation (> or = 0.1 mV or > 0.2 mV) in either inferior or lateral leads.
Results: The early-repolarization pattern of 0.1 mV or more was present in 630 subjects (5.8%): 384 (3.5%) in inferior leads and 262 (2.4%) in lateral leads, with elevations in both leads in 16 subjects (0.1%). J-point elevation of at least 0.1 mV in inferior leads was associated with an increased risk of death from cardiac causes (adjusted relative risk, 1.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04 to 1.59; P=0.03); 36 subjects (0.3%) with J-point elevation of more than 0.2 mV in inferior leads had a markedly elevated risk of death from cardiac causes (adjusted relative risk, 2.98; 95% CI, 1.85 to 4.92; P<0.001) and from arrhythmia (adjusted relative risk, 2.92; 95% CI, 1.45 to 5.89; P=0.01). Other electrocardiographic risk markers, such as a prolonged QT interval corrected for heart rate (P=0.03) and left ventricular hypertrophy (P=0.004), were weaker predictors of the primary end point.
Conclusions: An early-repolarization pattern in the inferior leads of a standard electrocardiogram is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiac causes in middle-aged subjects.
2009 Massachusetts Medical Society