The QT interval is regarded as an important biomarker for the assessment of arrhythmia liability, and evidence of QT prolongation has led to the withdrawal and relabeling of numerous compounds. Traditional methods of assessing QT prolongation correct the QT interval for the length of the RR interval (which varies inversely with heart-rate) in a variety of ways. These methods often disagree with each other and do not take into account changes in autonomic state. Correcting the QT interval for RR reduces a bivariate observation (RR, QT) to a univariate observation (QTc). The development of automatic electrocardiogram (ECG) signal acquisition systems has made it possible to collect continuous (so called ‘beat-to-beat’) ECG data. ECG data collected prior to administration of a compound allow us to define a region for (RR, QT) values that encompasses typical activity. Such reference regions are used in clinical applications to define the ‘normal’ region of clinical or laboratory measurements.
This paper motivates the need for reference regions of (RR, QT) values from beat-to-beat ECG data, and describes a way of constructing these. We introduce a measure of agreement between two reference regions that points to the reliability of 12-lead digital Holter data. We discuss the use of reference regions in establishing baselines for ECG parameters to assist in the evaluation of cardiac risk and illustrate using data from two methodological studies. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.