May 8, 2009

Upset in heart rhythm ups death risk

Risks go up in cardiac patients having a rapid heart rhythm episode, U.S. researchers say.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found an irregular heart rhythm known as sustained ventricular tachycardia or ventricula fibrillation, occurs in 5.7 percent of patients with an ST elevation myocardial infarction -- STEMI patients -- pattern on their electrocardiogram following a heart attack.

Ninety percent of the VT/VF episodes occurred within 48 hours of undergoing a coronary angioplasty or stent placement -- either before or after the procedure was done. Twenty-three percent of patients with VT/VF died within 90 days compared to 3.6 percent of those with no VT/VF.

Because currently the majority of patients with STEMI worldwide are routinely monitored for longer than 72 hours, our findings have the potential to decrease resource use without compromising patient safety when a risk-based strategy of monitoring or early discharge is followed, the study authors say in a statement. However, this finding also needs confirmation in future studies.

The study, led by Dr. Rajendra Mehta of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C., was based on 5,745 STEMI patients undergoing angioplasty or stent placement at 296 hospitals in 17 countries.