T-wave alternans as an arrhythmic risk stratifier: state of the art

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2013 Sep;15(9):398. doi: 10.1007/s11886-013-0398-7.


Microvolt level T-wave alternans (MTWA), a phenomenon of beat-to-beat variability in the repolarization phase of the ventricles, has been closely associated with an increased risk of ventricular tachyarrhythmic events (VTE) and sudden cardiac death (SCD) during medium- and long-term follow-up. Recent observations also suggest that heightened MTWA magnitude may be closely associated with short-term risk of impending VTE. At the subcellular and cellular level, perturbations in calcium transport processes likely play a primary role in the genesis of alternans, which then secondarily lead to alternans of action potential morphology and duration (APD). As such, MTWA may play a role not only in risk stratification but also more fundamentally in the pathogenesis of VTE. In this paper, we outline recent advances in understanding the pathogenesis of MTWA and also the utility of T-wave alternans testing for clinical risk stratification. We also highlight emerging clinical applications for MTWA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Electrocardiography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / etiology
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / physiopathology