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Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2005 Oct;2(10):522-8.

Can microvolt T-wave alternans testing reduce unnecessary defibrillator implantation?

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.


The Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial II (MADIT II) and the Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial (SCD-HeFT) have established that patients with a reduced ejection fraction gain an overall mortality benefit from prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy. Only a small proportion of the patients in these studies, however, have received life-saving therapy from the defibrillator. Because defibrillator therapy is invasive and expensive, patients with a low ejection fraction would benefit from effective risk stratification so that defibrillator therapy was used only in those at significant risk. In this review, we analyze prospective clinical trials that have evaluated microvolt T-wave alternans (MTWA) testing as a predictor of ventricular tachyarrhythmic events in populations of patients similar to those studied in MADIT II or SCD-HeFT; that is, patients with a reduced ejection fraction who were not selected on the basis of a history of ventricular tachyarrhythmias. In these studies, the average annual rate of fatal and nonfatal ventricular tachyarrhythmic events among the patients who tested negative for MTWA was around 1%. This rate is so low that it is unlikely that such patients would benefit from implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy. The mortality, moreover, was lower among MTWA-negative patients who did not receive implantable defibrillators than that observed in the MADIT II and SCD-HeFT patients who received implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In response, patients with a low ejection fraction who are being considered for implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy should undergo MTWA testing as part of their evaluation.

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