Prevalence and Outcome of High-Risk QT Prolongation Recorded in the Emergency Department from an Institution-Wide QT Alert System

Heather N. Anderson, J. Martijn Bos, Kristina H. Haugaa, Bruce W. Morlan, Robert F. Tarrell, Pedro J. Caraballo, Michael J. Ackerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background QT prolongation is an independent risk factor for sudden death, stroke, and all-cause mortality. However, additional studies have shown that in certain settings, QT prolongation may be transient and a result of external factors. Objective In this study, we evaluated the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients seen in the emergency department (ED) with QT prolongation. Methods Between November 2010 and June 2011, 7522 patients had an electrocardiogram (ECG) obtained during their evaluation in the ED. Clinical, laboratory, and therapeutic information was collected for all patients with QT prolongation (i.e., ≥ 500 ms and QRS < 120 ms). Potential QT-inciting factors (drugs, electrolyte disturbances, and comorbidities) were synthesized into a pro-QT score. Results Among the 7522 patients with an ECG obtained in the ED, a QT alert was activated in 93 (1.2%; mean QTc 521 ± 34 ms). The majority of ED patients (64%) had more than one underlying condition associated with QT prolongation, with electrolyte disturbances in 51%, a QT prolonging condition in 56%, and QT-prolonging drugs in 77%. Thirty-day mortality was 13% for patients with QT prolongation noted in the ED. Conclusions One percent of patients evaluated with an ECG in the ED activated our prolonged QTc warning system, with most demonstrating > 1 QT-prolonging condition. Thirty-day mortality was significant, but it requires further investigation to determine whether the QTc simply provided a non-invasive indicator of increased risk or heralded the presence of a vulnerable host at risk of a QT-mediated sudden dysrhythmic death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-15
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • QT prolongation
  • emergency department
  • monitoring
  • risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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