Posts Tagged ‘early repolarisation syndrome’

Often general practitioners refer  ECGs  with abnormal resting  ST/T wave patterns  to cardiologists .

Following are few of them

  • ST elevation
  • ST depression
  • T wave inversion
  • Tall T waves
  • A relatively uncommon  finding is  a flat ST segment  , which  is discussed here.

The commonest( benign) abnormality   is  T wave inversion  in women and tall ST /T waves   reflecting  early repolarisation  pattern in men. A flat ST segment is an occasional finding in general population.

ST segment is inscribed  during the most important  time  of  cardiac cycle.This is the period the ventricle is doing its prime function , namely ejecting the blood in systole .Hence it is subjected to maximum stress . During times of ischemia  ST segment  gets elevated or depressed depending upon the severity of ischemia. For the same reason , even  subtle changes in this segment is  frowned upon by cardiologists. Most of them would receive a EST.

It is ironical to note  , few normal people  show almost silent electrical activity during this  crucial  phase of   their  ECG .ST segment is often  a flat line  in them . This is a ECG of a women referred as CAD. She was asymptomatic . Echocardiogram  was normal . She was asked to do  a EST.

This asymptomatic women was refered for ECG opinion

The peculiar thing about T waves  are ,   a 10 mm upright  as well as  5 mm inverted T wave ,  both can be normal. So .  there is no element of surprise  to note absent  T waves  or a flat  T wave  to be called as normal .

The curious case of lost ST segment !

* T waves are recorded when K+ efflux occur rapidly out of cells . Hypokalemia  can be an important cause of flat T waves.

It is still a  mystery to me  why some people inscribe a tall T when  potassium comes out  of cell and  an equal number (Esp women)  record a down ward T wave  for the same event !  I wish  I get an answer  to this  lingering  question from  any of the readers !

Is a flat T wave represent  a T wave in  transition  to become inverted T wave  later ?

Possible .But we  are not sure ! A static T wave is safer than a dynamic T wave .

Final message

Flat ST segment and absent T waves  represent a same spectrum of ECG  findings  which  are  referred to as  non specific ST segment changes in  clinical practice .Generally , they have  little clinical significance.* In our experience we have found , female patients, Anemia  hypothyroidism  are  often associated with flat ST segments  . If CAD is suspected exercise stress test  should be done. Some believe a flat ST segment  is more likely to  result in EST positivity (Not necessarily true positive !)

* Non specific ST/T changes by itself is a  huge topic.  Ideally the term non specific ST /T changes should be avoided , as it  primarily came into vogue  to denote non ischemic ST segment (Still , other pathologies are very much  possible) It is estimated there are about  50 causes for non specific ST/T changes , right from a  benign situation  like deep   respirations , to significant  myocardial disorders. However , it still makes   good clinical sense for a  general practitioner  , to refer to a cardiologist , whenever ST  segment deviates  without any reason .

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ERS -Early repolarisation syndrome  is known as a   benign ECG finding  for  many decades  .Now it  is beginning to look dangerous as evidence is accumulating  it may have a link with ventricular arrhythmias.

ERS represents complex changes in  ionic movements during  cardiac repolarisation . (To be specific , it is due to a functional gain of  K + ionic channels during phase 3 of action potential).Generally this is a very benign condition. But , what concern us is ,  it can predispose to ventricular arrhythmias when these patients are confronted with ischemia .

When repolarisation occur early it indirectly shorts the QT interval .We know QT interval is a notorious period in human ECG as both a short and long (<320ms, > 460ms)  can be dangerous.

Is ERS a marker for potential cause for primary VF ?

Read this article from NEJM 2009

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                                  Indication for thrombolysis in ST elevation MI  is mainly determined by clinical and ECG features. ST elevation of more than 1mm in two consecutive leads with a clinical suspicion of acute coronary event demands immediate thrombolysis.

                                 Early repolarisation syndrome(ERS) is a  is typical mimicker of STEMI . In ERS , ST segment elevation occurs in many leads especially precardial .This entity is estimated to occur in nearly 3-5% of population where a genetic variation in the potassium channel activation is reported.

                              If they  land in ER with some sort of chest pain , chances are high for labelling  them as ACS . It is not uncommon for  CCU physicians  to  witness  an  ERS being lysed . Even in many of the land mark trials (ISIS ) there has been many inappropriate thrombolysis , recognised later on.

What can really happen if you thromolyse them inadvertently ?

Generally nothing happens . But they are exposed to the risk of thromolysis. The ECG changes persist. And troponin will be negative and  echocardiogram will not reveal any wall motion defect.

Are we legally liable if a patient  with ERS was thrombolysed and he ends up with a bleeding complication like stroke ?

                        While the physician may feel guilty , there is no reasons for him to feel so.The guidelines are kept little lineant  for  the indication for thromolysis. When we are promoting  a strategy of early  thrombolyis  on a population based approach  in STEMI ,  there is bound to have a overlap with normality .The benefits out of early thrombolysis for eligible  patients for outweigh the few inappropriate thromolysis.

When you want to catch  a   real criminal  it is unavoidable,  one gets hold of all suspected criminals before letting them free . Unfortunately  in this exercise , some of the innocent  might experience   intimidation or even a injury  at the hands of law enforcers.

                               Similarly if a patient with ERS develop a severe esophageal spasm and typical  angina like chest pain he is absolutely certain to receive thrombolysis. (Troponin, CPK come later , and the results never veto the clinical and ECG criteria ,except probably in LBBB) .Many times critical  time dependent decisions are prone for errors in CCU.   So it may be  unscientific to ask why an ERS was  thrombolysed !

 How can one prevent inadvertent thrombolysis in ERS ?

                            Always ask for the previously recorded ECGs .If it is available and  look exactly similar to the current ECG  chances are unlikely  for ACS. In ERS ST segment is generally concavity upwards . ACC/AHA  guideline for STEMI  ,is  aware of this fact , but still  advices thrombolysis for all ST elevation irrespective of the morphology of ST segment elevation. This is propably intentional,   not  to incorporate morphology cirteria of ST elevation  for thromolysis .It would potentially  make many true STEMIs  diagnosed falsely  as ERS and deny thrombolysis.


What is the latest news about ERS ?

                       Now data are coming up, ERS is not entirely benign condition.Some of them ( Even a fraction of ERS population could be a significant number) can have a overlap between Brugada syndrome and they  could be prone for dangerous ventricular arrhythmia when challanged with ischemic or other stress.

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