Diagnostic and prognostic utility of electrocardiography for left ventricular hypertrophy defined by magnetic resonance imaging in relationship to ethnicity: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Am Heart J. 2010 Apr;159(4):652-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2009.12.035.


Background: Left ventricular mass is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart is a standard of reference for left ventricular mass measurement. Ethnicity is believed to affect electrocardiographic (ECG) performance. We evaluated the diagnostic and prognostic performance of ECG for left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) as defined by MRI in relationship to ethnicity.

Methods: Data were analyzed from 4,967 participants (48% men, mean age 62 +/- 10 years; 39% white, 13% Chinese, 26% African American, 22% Hispanic) enrolled in the Multi-Ethic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who were followed for a median of 4.8 years for incident CVD.

Results: Thirteen traditional ECG-LVH criteria were assessed, and showed overall and ethnicity-specific low sensitivity (10%-26%) and high specificity (88%-99%) in diagnosing MRI-defined LVH. Ten of 13 ECG-LVH criteria showed superior sensitivity and diagnostic performance in African Americans as compared with whites (P = .02-.001). The sum of amplitudes of S wave in V(1), S wave in V(2), and R wave in V(5) (a MESA-specific ECG-LVH criterion) offered higher sensitivity (40.4%) compared with prior ECG-LVH criteria while maintaining good specificity (90%) and diagnostic performance (receiver operating characteristic area = 0.65). In fully adjusted models, only the MESA-specific ECG-LVH criterion, Romhilt-Estes score, Framingham score, Cornell voltage, Cornell duration product, and Framingham-adjusted Cornell voltage predicted increased CVD risk (P < .05).

Conclusions: Electrocardiography has low sensitivity but high specificity for detecting MRI-defined LVH. The performance of ECG for LVH detection varies by ethnicity, with African Americans showing higher sensitivity and overall performance compared with other ethnic groups.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / diagnosis*
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / ethnology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity