Effects of gender on cardiac arrhythmias

J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 1998 Jun;9(6):655-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8167.1998.tb00950.x.


The purpose of this study is to review published data regarding gender differences in cardiac electrophysiology and in the occurrence of clinical arrhythmias. ECG differences between men and women include a faster resting heart rate in women, a longer corrected QT interval, and a lower QT dispersion than in men. The faster resting heart rate in women appears to be primarily related to differences in physical conditioning. The mechanism for the longer corrected QT interval in women is not completely known, but does not appear to be related to acute effects of estrogen or progesterone or differences in autonomic innervation. Women also appear to have a lower incidence of atrial fibrillation, a difference in the age distribution of supraventricular tachycardia, and a lower incidence of sudden death than men. Much of the lower incidence of sudden death in women may relate to a difference in the prevalence of coronary artery disease, but other factors such as inherent differences in repolarization, which may be reflected by a gender difference in the corrected QT interval, also may be operative. The paradox of a longer corrected QT interval and higher incidence of torsades de pointes, but lower population-based incidence of sudden death in women, has not been completely resolved. Further studies will be required to help better understand the basic mechanisms involved in gender differences in electrophysiology and arrhythmias and determine the extent to which these differences have implications for clinical management of cardiac arrhythmias.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Distribution