Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine the time course of the appearance of abnormal Q waves on the electrocardiogram (ECG) over the first 6 h of symptoms of myocardial infarction and to determine what implications, if any, such Q waves have for the efficacy of thrombolytic therapy.
Background: Severe myocardial ischemia can produce early QRS changes in the absence of infarction. Abnormal Q waves on the baseline ECG may not be an accurate marker of irreversibly injured myocardium.
Methods: Data from 695 patients who had no past history of myocardial infarction and whose admission ECG allowed prediction of myocardial infarct size in the absence of thrombolytic therapy (Aldrich score) were pooled from four prospective trials of thrombolytic therapy. The presence and number of abnormal Q waves on each patient's initial ECG were recorded. Four hundred thirty-six patients had left ventricular infarct size measured using quantitative thallium-201 tomography a mean (+/- SD) of 52 +/- 43 days after admission.
Results: Of patients admitted within 1 h of symptoms, 53% had abnormal Q waves on the initial ECG. Both predicted and final infarct size were larger in patients with abnormal Q waves on the initial ECG independent of the duration of symptoms before therapy (p < 0.001). Despite this finding, the presence of abnormal Q waves on the admission ECG did not eliminate the effect of thrombolytic therapy on reducing final infarct size (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Abnormal Q waves are a common finding early in the course of acute myocardial infarction. However, there is no evidence that abnormal Q waves are associated with less benefit in terms of reduction of infarct size after thrombolytic therapy.