Electrocardiographic signs of a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) are nonspecific, and therefore the diagnosis of NSTEMI during acute coronary syndromes (ACS) depends mainly on cardiac biomarker levels. Fragmented QRS (fQRS) represents myocardial conduction abnormalities due to myocardial infarction (MI) scars in patients with coronary artery disease. However, the time of appearance of fQRS during ACS has not been investigated. It was postulated that in patients with ACS, fQRS on 12-lead electrocardiography occurs within 48 hours of presentation with NSTEMI as well as ST elevation MI and that fQRS predicts mortality. Serial electrocardiograms from 896 patients with ACS (mean age 62 ± 11 years, 98% men) who underwent cardiac catheterization were studied. Four hundred forty-one patients had MIs, including 337 patients with NSTEMIs, and 455 patients had unstable angina (the control group). Serial electrocardiograms were obtained every 6 to 8 hours during the first 24 hours after the diagnosis of MI and the next day (<48 hours). Fragmented QRS on 12-lead electrocardiography was defined by the presence of single or multiple notches in the R or S wave, without a typical bundle branch block, in ≥2 contiguous leads in 1 of the major coronary artery territories. Fragmented QRS developed in 224 patients (51%) in the MI group and only 17 (3.7%) in the control group (p <0.001). New Q waves developed in 122 (28%), 76 (23%), and 2 (0.4%) patients in the MI, NSTEMI, and control groups, respectively. The sensitivity values of fQRS for ST elevation MI and NSTEMI were 55% and 50%, respectively. The specificity of fQRS was 96%. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis revealed that patients with fQRS had significantly decreased times to death compared to those without fQRS. Fragmented QRS, T-wave inversion, and ST depression were independent predictors of mortality during a mean follow-up period of 34 ± 16 months. In conclusion, fQRS on 12-lead electrocardiography is a moderately sensitive but highly specific sign for ST elevation MI and NSTEMI. Fragmented QRS is an independent predictor of mortality in patients with ACS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine