Background and hypothesis: A hypothesis was formulated that regional delayed activation of the right ventricle, as seen in incomplete right bundle-branch (IRBBB) aberrancy, may simulate late potential activity and may be responsible for abnormal signal-averaged electrocardiograms (SAECGs). No previous studies have specifically addressed this issue in this particular group of patients (with IRBBB). Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the incidence of abnormal SAECGs in patients with IRBBB. If this were confirmed, our purpose would further be to investigate ways of reducing the false positive results.
Methods: The study group included 53 patients (28 men and 25 women), aged 53 +/- 13 years, with no history of previous myocardial infarction or ventricular tachycardia and who had an electrocardiogram (ECG) showing IRBBB. An SAECG was also performed in a control group of 19 age-matched individuals with a normal ECG. Time domain analysis was performed using a band pass filter of 40-250 Hz. The following parameters were considered normal: filtered QRS duration (QRSD) < 114 ms, root mean square of the voltage of the last 40 ms of the QRS complex (RMS) > 20 microV, and the duration of the low amplitude signal (< 40 microV) at the terminal portion of the QRS (LAS) < 38 ms. An SAECG was considered abnormal if any two of these criteria were abnormal.
Results: The mean values of the SAECG parameters were: QRSD 101 +/- 11 ms, RMS 32 +/- 20 microV, LAS 32 +/- 12 ms, and noise 0.29 +/- 0.13 microV. Abnormal SAECGs with at least two criteria satisfied were present in 16 of 53 (30%) patients compared with 0 (0%) of 19 individuals in the control group (p = 0.02). Abnormal values included the combination of RMS and LAS in 12 patients and all three parameters in 4 patients. However, if the definition of late potentials were limited to the combination of abnormal QRSD and either RMS or LAS values, the incidence of false positive results (4 patients) (7.5%) would be significantly decreased (p = 0.007). At 21 months of follow-up, no arrhythmic events occurred.
Conclusions: Delayed terminal conduction observed in IRBBB may cause a high incidence of false positive late potentials on SAECGs. Based on this study, we propose that this can be largely remedied if the optimal criteria for the presence of late potentials in patients with IRBBB always include the combination of QRSD and either RMS or LAS.