Electrocardiograms in Healthy North American Children in the Digital Age

Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2018 Jul;11(7):e005808. doi: 10.1161/CIRCEP.117.005808.


Background: Interpretation of pediatric ECGs is limited by lack of accurate sex- and race-specific normal reference values obtained with modern technology for all ages. We sought to obtain contemporary digital ECG measurements in healthy children from North America, to evaluate the effects of sex and race, and to compare our results to commonly used published datasets.

Methods: Digital ECGs (12-lead) were retrospectively collected for children ≤18 years old with normal echocardiograms at 19 centers in the Pediatric Heart Network. Patients were classified into 36 groups: 6 age, 2 sex, and 3 race (white, black, and other/mixed) categories. Standard intervals and amplitudes were measured; mean±SD and 2nd/98th percentiles were determined by age group, sex, and race. For each parameter, multivariable analysis, stratified by age, was conducted using sex and race as predictors. Parameters were compared with 2 large pediatric ECG data sets.

Results: Among ECGs from 2400 children, significant differences were found by sex and race categories. The corrected QT interval in lead II was greater for girls compared with boys for age groups ≥3 years (P≤0.03) and for whites compared with blacks for age groups ≥12 years (P<0.05). The R wave amplitude in V6 was greater for boys compared with girls for age groups ≥12 years (P<0.001), for blacks compared with white or other race categories for age groups ≥3 years (P≤0.006), and greater compared with a commonly used public data set for age groups ≥12 years (P<0.0001).

Conclusions: In this large, diverse cohort of healthy children, most ECG intervals and amplitudes varied by sex and race. These differences have important implications for interpreting pediatric ECGs in the modern era when used for diagnosis or screening, including thresholds for left ventricular hypertrophy.

Keywords: electrocardiography; hypertrophy, left ventricular; pediatrics; reference value.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Black or African American
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electrocardiography / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • North America
  • Observer Variation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • White People