High interobserver variability in the assessment of epsilon waves: Implications for diagnosis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia

Heart Rhythm. 2016 Jan;13(1):208-16. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2015.08.031. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


Background: Revision of the Task Force diagnostic criteria for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia (ARVC/D) has increased their sensitivity for the diagnosis of early and familial forms of the disease. The epsilon wave is a major diagnostic criterion in the context of ARVC/D, which, however, remains not quantifiable and therefore may leave room for substantial subjective interpretation.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess interobserver agreement in epsilon wave definition and epsilon wave importance for ARVC/D diagnosis.

Methods: Electrocardiographic (ECG) tracings depicting leads V1, V2, and V3 collected from individuals evaluated for ARVC/D (n = 30) were given to panel members who were asked to respond to the question whether ECG patterns meet epsilon wave definition outlined by the Task Force diagnostic criteria. The prevalence and importance of epsilon waves for ARVC/D diagnosis were assessed in a pooled data set of patients with definite ARVC/D from European and American registries (n = 815).

Results: The number of ECG patterns identified as epsilon waves varied from 5 to 18 per reviewer (median 13 per reviewer). A unanimous agreement was reached for only 10 cases (33%), 2 of which qualified as epsilon waves and 8 as non-epsilon waves by all panel members. From a pooled data set, 106 patients reportedly had epsilon waves (13%). In 105 of 106 patients with epsilon waves (99%), exclusion of epsilon waves from the diagnostic score would not affect the "definite" diagnostic category.

Conclusion: Interobserver variability in the assessment of epsilon waves is high; however, the impact of epsilon waves on ARVC/D diagnosis is negligibly low. The results urge to exercise caution in the assessment of epsilon waves, especially in patients who would not otherwise meet diagnostic criteria.

Keywords: Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy/dysplasia; Electrocardiography; Epsilon wave; Interobserver variability; Task Force criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia* / diagnosis
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia* / epidemiology
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Electrocardiography* / methods
  • Electrocardiography* / statistics & numerical data
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Observer Variation
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • Reproducibility of Results