Background: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that acute myocardial ischaemia increases QT dispersion measured from the 12-lead electrocardiogram.
Methods: Incremental atrial pacing was used to induce myocardial ischaemia in 18 patients with coronary artery disease and QT dispersion was measured. Six patients with normal coronary arteries served as the control group.
Findings: All the patients with coronary artery disease developed angina and/or ST depression accompanied by marked increases in QT dispersion (mean increase 38 ms, 95% CI 30 to 45 ms, p < 0.001). In contrast, in the six patients with normal coronary arteries who remained without symptoms and without ST changes, there was no significant change in QT dispersion in response to pacing. Baseline QT dispersion did not distinguish those patients with coronary artery disease from those with normal coronary arteries (44 ms [95% Cl 39-49 ms] vs 40 ms [25-55 ms]), respectively.
Interpretation: These results demonstrate that myocardial ischaemia induced by incremental atrial pacing in patients with coronary artery disease causes an acute increase in QT dispersion. Such "inducible" QT dispersion may prove more useful than resting QT dispersion in assessing the individual risk of arrhythmic events in patients with coronary artery disease.