Circadian variation and waking hour dynamics of the QT interval: Implications for mechanisms underlying sudden cardiac death
Singh JP., Johnston J., Sleight P., Marinho MF., Kulangara S., Casadei B., George Hart DM.
Background: The incidence of sudden cardiac death is maximal in the morning hours. Although ventricular arrhythmias have been implicated as a potential mechanism, and several neurohumoral factors affecting myocardial excitability have been shown to be raised in the early morning hours, it is not known if there is any circadian variation in the dynamics of ventricular repolarization when studied on a beat-to-beat basis. The objective of this study was to examine the range, diurnal variations, and circadian distribution of the variability of the QT interval in healthy subjects. Method: We developed and validated a new method for continuous measurement of QT intervals from 24-hour Holter recordings. The QT intervals measured semi- automatically were corrected by a linear regression formula derived independently for each patient from his own QT and RR values in 32 healthy males (20 ± 0.4 years). QT variability was assessed by the mean standard deviation of the average of consecutive uncorrected QT intervals (SDA-QT Index) and corrected QT intervals (SDA-QTc index) over 5-minute segments. The rate-dependent changes of the QT interval were studied as a function of the slope of the regression line between the QT and RR values. Results: The average QTc range was mean (SD) 79 (± 28) ms; the average maximal QTc interval was 481 (± 24) ms. The 95% upper confidence limit for the mean 24- hour QTc interval was 443 ms. The RR, QT, and QTc intervals were longer, while the SDA-QT and SDA-QTc indices were shorter during sleep. Hourly averages of the SDA-QT and SDA- QTc index revealed a sudden increase in QT variability in the first hour of waking (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.006). Conclusion: The dynamic behavior of the QT interval shows significant diurnal variations. The maximal QTc interval over 24 hours is longer than previously assumed. The period shortly following awakening is characterized by a peak in the variability of the QT interval. These changes may be indicative of autonomic instability during the early waking hours and correspond with the peak incidence of sudden arrhythmic death.