Frequency and Cause of Transient QT Prolongation after Surgery

Daniel D. Joyce, J. Martijn Bos, Kristina H. Haugaa, Robert F. Tarrell, Bruce W. Morlan, Pedro J. Caraballo, Michael J. Ackerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Patients undergoing surgery are often exposed to QT-inciting factors that may increase the risk for complications. We evaluated the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with QTc ≥500 ms within the first 24 hours after surgery as identified by an institution-wide electrocardiogram alert system. From November 2010 to June 2011, 470 patients exhibited an electrocardiographically isolated QTc ≥500 ms. QT prolongation after surgery was the setting for >1 of every 10 QTc alerts (59 patients). We determined the presence of QT prolonging medical conditions, drugs, electrolyte abnormalities, and the surgical patient's clinical outcome. The average preoperative QTc of the 59 patients demonstrating perioperative QT prolongation was 463 ± 56 ms with a postoperative QTc increase of 54 ± 37 ms. Most patients (n = 48, 83%) had ≥1 known QT-inciting factor before surgery. Compared with presurgical findings, there was a significant increase in pro-QTc score after surgery (1.8 ± 1.5 vs 3.5 ± 2.0, p <0.01) indicating a greater burden of perioperative QT-inciting factors. In conclusion, nearly all cases of QT prolongation could be explained by known etiologic or iatrogenic factors suggesting that maladaptive cardiac repolarization is most likely not a transient, postoperative stress response and may be avoided by altering clinical management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1605-1609
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Cardiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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