Morphological abnormalities in baseline ECGs in healthy normal volunteers participating in phase I studies

Indian J Med Res. 2012 Mar;135(3):322-30.


Background & objectives: Morphological abnormalities in 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs) are seen in subgroups of healthy individuals like athletes and air-force personnel. As these populations may not truly represent healthy individuals, we assessed morphological abnormalities in ECG in healthy volunteers participating in phase I studies, who are screened to exclude associated conditions.

Methods: ECGs from 62 phase I studies analyzed in a central ECG laboratory were pooled. A single drug-free baseline ECG from each subject was reviewed by experienced cardiologists. ECG intervals were measured on five consecutive beats and morphological abnormalities identified using standard guidelines.

Results: Morphological abnormalities were detected in 25.5 per cent of 3978 healthy volunteers (2495 males, 1483 females; aged 18-76 yr); the presence was higher in males (29.3% vs. 19.2% in females; P<0.001). Rhythm abnormalities were the commonest (11.5%) followed by conduction abnormalities (5.9%), axis deviation (4%), ST-T wave changes (3.1%) and chamber enlargement (1.4%). Incomplete right bundle branch block (RBBB), short PR interval and right ventricular hypertrophy were common in young subjects (<20 yr) while atrial fibrillation, first degree atrioventricular block, complete RBBB and left anterior fascicular block were more prevalent in elderly subjects (>65 yr). Prolonged PR interval, RBBB and intraventricular conduction defects were more common in males while sinus tachycardia, short PR interval and non-specific T wave changes were more frequent in females.

Interpretation & conclusions: Morphological abnormalities in ECG are commonly seen in healthy volunteers participating in phase I studies; and vary with age and gender. Further studies are required to determine whether these abnormalities persist or if some of these disappear on follow up.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Electrocardiography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors