ECG observations in Tibetan and Han residents of Lhasa

J Electrocardiol. 1998 Jul;31(3):237-43.


In order to compare the prevalence of electrocardiographic (ECG) abnormalities suggestive of right ventricular hypertrophy in native and immigrant populations residing at high altitude, a retrospective review was undertaken of data obtained from a random survey of healthy volunteers and persons with chronic mountain sickness (CMS). All persons included in the survey were ambulatory volunteers from the general community who were evaluated at the Tibet Institute of Medical Science in Lhasa, where the elevation is 3,658 meters. The 74 residents of Lhasa, whose ECGs were studied, included 30 healthy Tibetan natives of Lhasa; 24 healthy Han (Chinese) immigrants, born at or near sea level, who had migrated to high altitude as children or adults; and 20 persons with symptoms of CMS. The ECGs of all subjects were reviewed for predetermined criteria suggestive of right ventricular hypertrophy, which were found to be present in 17% of healthy Tibetan natives, 29% of healthy Han immigrants, and 50% of CMS patients. The Han subjects who had migrated as children presented evidence of right ventricular hypertrophy more commonly than did adult immigrants. The overwhelming majority (90%) of persons with CMS were Han. Thus, the frequency of ECG abnormalities consistent with right ventricular hypertrophy was similar in healthy young Tibetan and Han men, but these abnormalities were less common in Tibetan natives than in Han who had migrated to high altitude as children or in CMS patients. The prevalence of ECG evidence of right ventricular hypertrophy increased with duration of high altitude residence among Han.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Right Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Hypertrophy, Right Ventricular / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tibet