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Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2007 Jan;30(1):123-8.

The resting electrocardiogram in the management of patients with congestive heart failure: established applications and new insights.

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  • Mount Sinai School of Medicine of the New York University and the Division of Cardiology, Elmhurst Hospital Center, New York 11373, USA. madiasj@nychhc.org


The resting electrocardiogram (ECG) furnishes essential information for the diagnosis, management, and prognostic evaluation of patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). Almost any ECG diagnostic entity may turn out to be useful in the care of patients with CHF, revealing the non-specificity of the ECG in CHF. Nevertheless a number of CHF/ECG correlates have been proposed and found to be indispensable in clinical practice; they include, among others, the ECG diagnoses of myocardial ischemia and infarction, atrial fibrillation, left ventricular hypertrophy/dilatation, left bundle branch block and intraventricular conduction delays, left atrial abnormality, and QT-interval prolongation. In addition to the above well-known applications of the ECG for patients with CHF, a recently described association of peripheral edema (PERED), sometimes even imperceptible by physical examination, with attenuated ECG potentials, could extend further the diagnostic range of the clinician. These ECG voltage attenuations are of extracardiac mechanism, and impact the amplitude of QRS complexes, P-waves, and T-waves, occasionally resulting also in shortening of the QRS complex and QT interval duration. PERED alleviation, in response to therapy of CHF, reverses all above alterations. These fresh diagnostic insights have potential application in the follow-up of patients with CHF, and in their selection for implantation of cardioverter/defibrillator and/or cardiac resynchronization systems. If sought, PERED-induced ECG changes are abundantly present in the hospital and clinic environments; if their detection and monitoring are incorporated in the clinician's "routine," considerable improvements in the care of patients with CHF may be realized.

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