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Limitations of the Electrocardiogram in Estimating Infarction Size after Acute Reperfusion Therapy for Myocardial Infarction

Timothy F. Christian, MD; Ian P. Clements, MD; Thomas Behrenbeck, MD, PhD; Kenneth C. Huber, MD; James H. Chesebro, MD; Bernard J. Gersh, MD, ChB, DPhil; and Raymond J. Gibbons, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant Support: In part by a grant from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Requests for Reprints: Raymond J. Gibbons, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Christian, Clements, Behrenbeck, Huber, Chesebro, Gersh, and Gibbons: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905.


© 1991 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1991;114(4):264-270. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-114-4-264
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Objective: To assess the ability of the 12-lead electrocardiogram to estimate infarction size after reperfusion therapy for acute myocardial infarction.

Design: The presence or absence of Q waves and the Selvester QRS score obtained before and after hospital discharge were compared with radionuclide estimates of infarction size and ejection fraction at discharge and 6 weeks later, regional wall motion at discharge and 6 weeks later, and myocardial perfusion defect size quantitated with Tc-99m-sestamibi at discharge.

Setting: A tertiary referral center.

Patients: A consecutive series of 43 patients with acute myocardial infarction who received acute reperfusion therapy and were assessed using 12-lead electrocardiography, radionuclide angiography,and Tc-99m-sestamibi tomographic imaging before discharge.

Interventions: All 43 patients received acute reperfusion therapy: 21 patients received intravenous tissue plasminogen activator, and 22 patients underwent primary percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty.

Main Outcome Measure: The correlation of QRS score and Q waves with three radionuclide estimates of infarction size.

Results: A significant correlation was found between myocardial perfusion defect size at discharge and both left ventricular ejection fraction and regional wall motion at discharge and 6 weeks later (r = -0.71 to -0.81; all comparisons, P < 0.001). Little correlation was found between electrocardiographic findings and radionuclide measurements of left ventricular function and perfusion. Presence or absence of Q waves at discharge was not associated with any difference in ejection fraction, regional wall motion, or perfusion defect at discharge. No correlation was found between QRS score and ejection fraction or myocardial perfusion defect size at discharge. The QRS score at discharge correlated only weakly with regional wall motion at discharge and 6 weeks later. This lack of correlation was unchanged when electrocardiograms obtained after hospital discharge were analyzed.

Conclusion: Although inexpensive and readily available, the 12-lead electrocardiogram does not appear to provide a reliable estimate of infarction size after reperfusion therapy for acute myocardial infarction.

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