Fragmented heart waves on an ECG could indicate heart problems or death

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Heart patients with notched, fragmented patterns on an electrocardiogram (ECG) are 2.5 times more likely to die or have heart problems than patients with intact waves, according to a study published in the November issue of HeartRhythm.

The study finds that the presence of fragmented waves (fQRS) on a 12-lead ECG is associated with significantly increased risk for cardiac events and death.

“Fragmented QRS appears to be a said Mithilesh Das, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Krannert Institute of Cardiology, Indiana University School of Medicine.

The study examined 998 heart patients (273 with fQRS) for a median follow-up of 4.75 years. One-third of patients with fQRS died within the study period, versus one-forth without fQRS. Of patients with fQRS, more than half had at least one cardiac event during the follow-up as compared to only one-fourth patients in whom fQRS was absent.

“These days, when most tests for heart disease are expensive and require expertise to perform and interpret, this study highlights the value of an age old routine ECG, which is a simple, inexpensive and readily available test. Heart patients should be aware that, if the ECG shows fragmented QRS, they face a significantly greater risk of cardiac events and death within five years, even though they may have a normal stress test,” Das noted.