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Keywords:

  • repolarization variability;
  • sudden cardiac death;
  • ECG signal processing

Background: T-wave alternans (TWA), a harbinger of sudden cardiac death, associates to a broad variety of pathologies. In a previous study, we observed the presence of unstable and low-amplitude TWA also in healthy subjects, and considered it as “physiological TWA.” The possible existence of different TWA characteristics between males and female is investigated in the present work.

Methods: Resting ECG recordings from 142 control healthy subjects, 77 males and 65 females, were submitted to our adaptive match filter (AMF) based method for TWA detection and characterization in terms of duration, amplitude, and their product. The 99.5th percentile of these parameters distributions over the entire control population and over the male and female subgroups, were used to define thresholds which delimit a gender-independent and male- and female-related TWA normality regions, respectively, out of which abnormal TWA cases (TWA+) are expected to fall. Clinical usefulness of these regions was tested using a population of 151 coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, divided into 128 males and 23 females.

Results: In our control-female population, TWA duration was significantly longer than in control-male population (65 ± 13 beat vs 52 ± 14 beat; P < 10−6). Our gender-related normality regions allowed identification of 36 (23.8%) TWA+ cases among the CAD patients, 17 more than those obtained from a gender-independent region. All these 17 patients were CAD males with over-threshold TWA duration.

Conclusions: TWA is a gender-related phenomenon. Definition of gender-related TWA normality regions improves identification of patients at increased TWA stability (i.e., prolonged TWA duration) and, thus, at increased risk of arrhythmic events.

Ann Noninvasive Electrocardiol 2010;15(4):328-336