Identification of sudden death risk factors in acute and chronic coronary artery disease

Louis A. Vismara, Zakauddin Vera, James M. Foerster, Ezra A Amsterdam, Dean T. Mason

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60 Scopus citations


Because of their potential role in the pathogenesis of sudden death, cardiac arrhythmias in patients with coronary artery disease have become the subject of increasing concern and investigation. A series of studies on the problem of ventricular ectopy as it relates to the entire spectrum of sudden death in coronary disease were carried out utilizing continuous portable electrocardiographic monitoring systems. Evaluation of arrhythmias during the entire 3 week in-hospital period after acute myocardial infarction in 83 patients revealed that absence of premature ventricular contractions, including their serious forms (multifocal, paired, R on T phenomenon, frequency 5/min or greater) and ventricular tachycardia in the coronary care unit did not exclude their high incidence rate (premature ventricular contractions 30 percent, serious forms 41 percent, ventricular tachycardia 6 percent) in the late hospital phase. Because late hospital serious forms of ventricular ectopy correlated with arterial hypoxia and elevated left ventricular filling pressure in the coronary care unit and with persistent S-T abnormalities, the extent of left ventricular dysfunction and ischemia with acute myocardial infarction appeared precursors to these arrhythmias. Study of ventricular ectopy in the late hospital phase of acute myocardial infarction indicated that ventricular ectopy and particularly its serious forms had prognostic significance relative to subsequent sudden death after discharge; the extent of predischarge S-T segment alterations was greater in subjects who died suddenly than in survivors, suggesting that persistent ischemia or segmental dyssynergy, or both, predisposed to lethal arrhythmias. Among 86 patients with chronic coronary disease documented by catheterization, 87 percent had ventricular ectopy and 62 percent serious ventricular arrhythmias, in contrast to 34 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in normal subjects; frequency of serious forms of ventricular ectopy was related to extent of coronary atherosclerosis. Correlation of standard electrocardiograms with continuous Holter electrocardiograms in 101 patients with chronic coronary disease over 24 months revealed that the former modality was insensitive in arrhythmia detection; patients free of ventricular ectopy by serial standard electrocardiograms had a 62 percent incidence rate of serious forms of ventricular ectopy and 6 percent ventricular tachycardia on portable continuous monitoring. Additional studies of patients with chronic coronary disease showed that assessment of both the type of ventricular ectopy and the setting in which it occurs provides the most meaningful characterization of risk of sudden death. These systematic series of observations identify premature ventricular ectopic beats as important and separate risk factors in coronary disease. Although the premature ventricular contraction itself has potential hazardous consequences in patients with coronary disease, specific types and origins of the ventricular arrhythmias are even more ominous harbingers of sudden death. Furthermore, the genesis and clinical outcome of ventricular ectopic beats in coronary disease appear to be related to myocardial factors including ischemia, fibrosis, pump dysfunction and hypertrophy. Moreover, the prognostic significance of ventricular arrhythmias and their underlying causes apply to both acute and chronic coronary artery disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-828
Number of pages8
JournalThe American journal of cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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