Electrocardiographic markers of late sudden death risk in postoperative tetralogy of Fallot children

J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 1997 Dec;8(12):1349-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8167.1997.tb01031.x.


Following surgery for tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), children may develop late onset ventricular arrhythmias. Many patients have both depolarization and repolarization abnormalities, including right bundle branch block (RBBB) and QT prolongation. The goal of this study was to improve prospective risk-assessment screening for late onset sudden death. Resting ECG markers including QRS duration, QTc, JTc, and interlead QT and JT dispersion were statistically analyzed to identify those patients at risk for ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. To determine predictive markers for future development of arrhythmia, we examined 101 resting ECGs in patients (age 12 +/- 6 years) with postoperative TOF and RBBB, 14 of whom developed late ventricular tachycardia (VT) or sudden death. These ECGs were also compared with an additional control group of 1000 age- and gender-matched normal ECGs. The mean QRS (+/- SD) in the VT group was 0.18 +/- 0.02 seconds versus 0.14 +/- 0.02 seconds in the non-VT group (P < 0.01). QTc and JTc in the VT group was 0.53 +/- 0.05 seconds and 0.33 +/- 0.03 seconds compared with 0.50 +/- 0.03 seconds and 0.32 +/- 0.03 seconds in the non-VT group (P = NS). There was no increase in QT dispersion among TOF patients with VT or sudden death compared with control patients or TOF patients without VT, although JT dispersion was more common in the TOF groups. A prolonged QRS duration in postoperative TOF with RBBB is more predictive than QTc, JTc, or dispersion indexes for identifying vulnerability to ventricular arrhythmias in this population, while retaining high specificity. The combination of both QRS prolongation and increased JT dispersion had very good positive and negative predictive values. These results suggest that arrhythmogenesis in children following TOF surgery might involve depolarization in addition to repolarization abnormalities. Prospective identification of high-risk children may be accomplished using these ECG criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / complications
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / physiopathology
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / surgery*