ECGs should be a routine part of every adult’s annual physical exam. ECGs can help identify heart muscle damage, heart enlargement and irregular heart rhythms. A new study published in the August 2009 edition of The European Heart Journal states that ECGs may also be able to help identify people at risk for Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). The study suggests that increases in the QRS duration (the electrical activity from the ventricles, which are the bottom chambers of the heart) are significant predictors of SCD. The researchers in this study excluded patients with known causes of SCD (i.e.: bundle branch blocks or hypertrophy which is an enlargement of the heart muscle).
This is an interesting initial evaluation that needs to be investigated further but again stresses the importance of routine yearly exams. Men and women with a family history of SCD, stroke and heart disease especially may benefit from this routine screening. We just need to make sure our health care providers are aware of this relatively new predictor of SCD and send people on for further evaluation.
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