Increased T wave complexity can indicate subclinical myocardial ischemia in asymptomatic adults

J Electrocardiol. 2011 Nov-Dec;44(6):684-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jelectrocard.2011.07.017. Epub 2011 Sep 14.


Background: Altered ventricular repolarization and cardiovascular mortality are closely correlated, and recent novel findings show that a distorted T wave loop morphology is also strongly correlated with subsequent onset of myocardial infarction among patients with stable angina. Therefore, we hypothesized that an abnormal T wave complexity ratio (CR) can indicate vulnerability to myocardial ischemia in asymptomatic, apparently healthy adults.

Methods: Healthy firefighters were enrolled in the current investigation where they completed symptom-limited, graded exercise treadmill testing (ETT) and 24-hour Holter electrocardiogram recording. The CR was automatically calculated using principal component analysis of the high-resolution Holter electrocardiogram signal then averaged over 24 hours (CR(24h)). End points were manually analyzed from the ETT; recordings revealing horizontal ST-segment depression (≥ 1 mm) in 2 or more leads for at least 1 minute during the peak of exercise were considered indicators of myocardial ischemia.

Results: One hundred four firefighters (age, 44 ± 8 years; 96% men) completed both ETT and Holter recording. Firefighters with positive end points (n = 34, or 33%) had higher CR(24h) compared with those with negative end points (0.14 ± 0.06 vs 0.09 ± 0.04, P < .01); there were no demographic differences between the 2 groups. After controlling for age, smoking status, hypertension, and obesity, an abnormal CR(24h) (≥ 20%) significantly predicted exercise-induced myocardial ischemia (odds ratio, 4.6; P = .01).

Conclusions: Increased T wave CR(24h) can predict myocardial ischemia in asymptomatic middle-age adults; this suggests that the distorted T wave loop morphology can reflect an altered ventricular repolarization caused by prolonged subclinical myocardial ischemia possibly caused by early coronary artery disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Firefighters
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnosis*