QTc interval in patients with schizophrenia receiving antipsychotic treatment as monotherapy or polypharmacy

CNS Spectr. 2018 Aug;23(4):278-283. doi: 10.1017/S1092852917000402. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Objective: Antipsychotics are associated with a polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, torsades de pointes, which, in the worst case, can lead to sudden cardiac death. The QT interval corrected for heart rate (QTc) is used as a clinical proxy for torsades de pointes. The QTc interval can be prolonged by antipsychotic monotherapy, but it is unknown if the QTc interval is prolonged further with antipsychotic polypharmaceutical treatment. Therefore, this study investigated the associations between QTc interval and antipsychotic monotherapy and antipsychotic polypharmaceutical treatment in schizophrenia, and measured the frequency of QTc prolongation among patients.

Methods: We carried out an observational cohort study of unselected patients with schizophrenia visiting outpatient facilities in the region of Central Jutland, Denmark. Patients were enrolled from January of 2013 to June of 2015, with follow-up until June of 2015. Data were collected from clinical interviews and clinical case records.

Results: Electrocardiograms were available for 65 patients, and 6% had QTc prolongation. We observed no difference in average QTc interval for the whole sample of patients receiving no antipsychotics, antipsychotic monotherapy, or antipsychotic polypharmaceutical treatment (p=0.29). However, women presented with a longer QTc interval when receiving polypharmacy than when receiving monotherapy (p=0.01). A limitation of this study was its small sample size.

Conclusions: We recommend an increased focus on monitoring the QTc interval in women with schizophrenia receiving antipsychotics as polypharmacy.

Keywords: QTc; antipsychotics; polypharmacy; schizophrenia; sex difference.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Long QT Syndrome / etiology
  • Male
  • Polypharmacy
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*


  • Antipsychotic Agents