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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1987 Aug;10(2):231-42.

Prognostic significance of ventricular ectopic activity in survivors of acute myocardial infarction.


Twenty-four hour ambulatory electrocardiography was performed on 3,290 survivors of acute myocardial infarction participating in the Beta-Blocker Heart Attack Trial (BHAT). History of myocardial infarction before the qualifying event, congestive heart failure and age were independently associated with the frequency and complexity of ventricular premature beats. Of the 1,640 patients randomized to placebo therapy, 163 died (76 suffered sudden death) during a 25 month average follow-up period. Ventricular ectopic activity was an independent predictor of total mortality after taking into consideration 16 other prognostic factors describing past history, risk factors, physical examination and laboratory investigations. Seven categoric definitions of ventricular ectopic activity predicted mortality, with similar odds ratios ranging from 2.27 to 2.69. A reciprocal relation of the sensitivity and specificity of each definition in predicting mortality was observed. Three clinical criteria (ST depression, cardiomegaly and prior infarction) allowed stratification of patients into four subsets with respective mortality rates of 35.5% (three criteria present), 19.0% (two criteria), 11.5% (one criterion) and 4.7% (none). Presence of ventricular ectopic activity (greater than or equal to 10 ventricular premature beats/h or pairs, ventricular tachycardia or multiform complexes) was associated with higher mortality rates in all four risk strata. The relative risk was higher (3.86) in the lowest risk stratum (mortality 2.4% without and 9.1% with ventricular ectopic activity). Thus, in survivors of acute myocardial infarction, ventricular ectopic activity was more pronounced in patients with prior myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure. It predicted mortality independently of other factors. Although mortality ratios were similar for all seven arrhythmia definitions, a reciprocal relation between sensitivity and specificity of the definitions in predicting mortality existed; ventricular ectopic activity was associated with increased mortality in all risk strata, but with a higher risk ratio in the numerically larger, low risk subset.

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