EKG pattern points to greater heart disease risk

Researchers report that an easy-to-read pattern seen on standard EKGs, the T axis, can be a more powerful indicator of heart disease risk than such well-known risk factors as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Normally, the T axis points forward, slightly down, and to the patient's left. In the frontal and horizontal plane, with three o'clock representing zero degrees, a normal T axis would be between 15 and 75 degrees. The investigators determined the T axis of more than 5,700 patients aged 55 years or older participating in the long-term Rotterdam Study. After an average follow-up of four years, they found that, compared with participants with normal T axis, participants with abnormal T axis were nearly four times more likely to die from heart disease or sudden cardiac death and nearly three times more likely to develop a nonfatal heart difficulty. If others confirm their findings, said the researchers, measurement of the T axis could be considered in identifying individuals prone to develop coronary artery disease both in clinical practice and in screening programs.