Background: Friedreich ataxia is the most commonly inherited ataxia; nearly 60% of deaths are cardiac in nature, with one in eight deaths due to arrhythmia. Additional or irregular heartbeats, measured as ectopy, can be quantified using portable heart rhythm monitoring. We sought to describe the ectopic burden in Friedreich ataxia.
Methods: Using a natural history study of patients with Friedreich ataxia at a single center, we analyzed portable heart rhythm monitors (Holters). Ectopic burden was defined as the proportion of atrial or ventricular ectopic beats over total beats.
Results: Of 456 patients, 131 had Holters. Sixty-eight (52.0%) were male, median age of symptom onset was 8.0 years (5.0 to 13.0, n = 111), median age at time of Holter was 17.3 years (interquartile range [IQR] 12.9 to 22.8, n = 129), and median duration of illness was 8.7 years (IQR 5.3 to 11.6, n = 110). Median GAA length on the shorter FXN allele was 706.0 (IQR 550.0 to 840.0, n = 112). Eight (7.8%, n = 103) had diminished cardiac function, and 74 (74.0%, n = 100) had ventricular hypertrophy. Ninety patients (83.0%) had atrial ectopy (supraventricular ectopy [SVE]): 85 (78.0%) with rare SVE (>0% to 5%) and five (5.0%) with frequent SVE (>10%). Twenty-five (19.0%) had supraventricular runs, and one (0.8%) had atrial fibrillation/flutter. Forty-five (41.0%) had ventricular ectopy (VE): 43 (39.0%) with rare VE (0% to 5%) and two (2.0%) with moderate VE (5% to 10%). Compared with patients with none and rare SVE, patients with frequent SVE had longer disease duration (18.3 versus 4.6 versus 9.0 years, P = 0.0005).
Conclusion: Patients with longer disease duration had higher rates of SVE. Heart rhythm monitoring may be considered for risk stratification; however, longitudinal analysis is needed.
Keywords: Arrhythmia; Cardiomyopathy; Friedreich ataxia; Supraventricular ectopy.
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