Increased prevalence of ECG markers for sudden cardiac arrest in refractory epilepsy

R. J. Lamberts, M. T. Blom, J. Novy, M. Belluzzo, A. Seldenrijk, B. W. Penninx, J. W. Sander, H. L. Tan, R. D. Thijs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and aim: People with epilepsy are at increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) due to ECG-confirmed ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation, as seen in a community-based study. We aimed to determine whether ECG-risk markers of SCA are more prevalent in people with epilepsy. Methods: In a cross-sectional, retrospective study, we analysed the ECG recordings of 185 people with refractory epilepsy and 178 controls without epilepsy. Data on epilepsy characteristics, cardiac comorbidity, and drug use were collected, and general ECG variables (heart rate (HR), PQ and QRS intervals) assessed. We analysed ECGs for three markers of SCA risk: severe QTc prolongation (male >450 ms, female >470 ms), Brugada ECG pattern, and early repolarisation pattern (ERP). Multivariate regression models were used to analyse differences between groups, and to identify associated clinical and epilepsy-related characteristics. Results: People with epilepsy had higher HR (71 vs 62 bpm, p<0.001) and a longer PQ interval (162.8 vs 152.6 ms, p=0.001). Severe QTc prolongation and ERP were more prevalent in people with epilepsy (QTc prolongation: 5% vs 0%; p=0.002; ERP: 34% vs 13%, p<0.001), while the Brugada ECG pattern was equally frequent in both groups (2% vs 1%, p>0.999). After adjustment for covariates, epilepsy remained associated with ERP (ORadj 2.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 5.5) and severe QTc prolongation (ORadj 9.9, 95% CI 1.1 to 1317.7). Conclusions: ERP and severe QTc prolongation appear to be more prevalent in people with refractory epilepsy. Future studies must determine whether this contributes to increased SCA risk in people with epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-313
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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