Prevalence and determinants of QT interval prolongation in medical inpatients

Intern Med J. 2012 Aug;42(8):933-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2011.02447.x.


Background: QT interval prolongation carries an increased risk of torsade de pointes and death.

Aim: We sought to determine the prevalence of QT prolongation in medical inpatients and to identify determinants of this condition.

Methods: We enrolled consecutive patients who were admitted to the internal medicine ward and who had an electrocardiogram performed within 24 h of admission. We collected information on baseline patient characteristics and the use of QT-prolonging drugs. Two blinded readers manually measured the QT intervals. QT intervals were corrected for heart rate using the traditional Bazett formula and the linear regression-based Framingham formula. We used logistic regression to identify patient characteristics and drugs that were independently associated with QTc prolongation.

Results: Of 537 inpatients, 22.3% had a prolonged QTc based on the Bazett formula. The adjusted odds for QTc prolongation based on the Bazett correction were significantly higher in patients who had liver disease (OR 2.9, 95% CI: 1.5-5.6), hypokalaemia (OR 3.3, 95% CI: 1.9-5.6) and who were taking ≥1 QT-prolonging drug at admission (OR 1.7, 95% CI: 1.1-2.6). Overall, 50.8% of patients with QTc prolongation received additional QT-prolonging drugs during hospitalisation.

Conclusions: The prevalence of QTc prolongation was high among medical inpatients but depended on the method used to correct for heart rate. The use of QT-prolonging drugs, hypokalaemia and liver disease increased the risk of QTc prolongation. Many patients with QTc prolongation received additional QT-prolonging drugs during hospitalisation, further increasing the risk of torsade de pointes and death.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Long QT Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Long QT Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Torsades de Pointes / diagnosis
  • Torsades de Pointes / epidemiology
  • Torsades de Pointes / physiopathology