In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HC), electrocardiographic (ECG) changes have been postulated to be an early marker of disease, detectable in sarcomere mutation carriers when left ventricular (LV) wall thickness is still normal. However, the ECG features of mutation carriers have not been fully characterized. Therefore, we systematically analyzed ECGs in a genotyped HC population to characterize ECG findings in mutation carriers (G+) with and without echocardiographic LV hypertrophy (LVH), and to evaluate the accuracy of ECG findings to differentiate at-risk mutation carriers from genetically unaffected relatives during family screening. The ECG and echocardiographic findings were analyzed from 213 genotyped subjects (76 G+/LVH-, 57 G+/LVH+ overt HC, 80 genetically unaffected controls). Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging was available on a subset. Q waves and repolarization abnormalities (QST) were highly specific (98% specificity) markers for LVH- mutation carriers, present in 25% of G+/LVH- subjects, and 3% of controls (p <0.001). QST ECG abnormalities remained independently predictive of carrying a sarcomere mutation after adjusting for age and impaired relaxation, another distinguishing feature of G+/LVH- subjects (odds ratio 8.4, p = 0.007). Myocardial scar or perfusion abnormalities were not detected on cardiac magnetic resonance imaging in G+/LVH- subjects, irrespective of the ECG features. In overt HC, 75% had Q waves and/or repolarization changes, but <25% demonstrated common isolated voltage criteria for LVH. In conclusion, Q waves and repolarization abnormalities are the most discriminating ECG features of sarcomere mutation carriers with and without LVH. However, owing to the limited sensitivity of ECG and echocardiographic screening, genetic testing is required to definitively identify at-risk family members.
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