Open Access Open Badges Research article

High prevalence of altered cardiac repolarization in patients with COPD

Noriane A Sievi12, Christian F Clarenbach1, Giovanni Camen1, Valentina A Rossi1, Arnoldus JR van Gestel1 and Malcolm Kohler134*

Author Affiliations

1 Pulmonary Division, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

2 Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Zurich Centre for Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

4 Chair Respiratory Medicine, Clinical Director Division of Pulmonology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2014, 14:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-14-55

Published: 2 April 2014



Altered cardiac repolarization and increased dispersion of repolarization have been identified as risk factors for sudden cardiac death (SCD). The prevalence of and the mechanisms contributing to altered cardiac repolarization are currently unknown in COPD.


In 91 COPD patients, 32 controls matched for age, cardiovascular risk and medication, and 41 healthy subjects, measures of cardiac repolarization and dispersion of repolarization (QTc interval, QT dispersion) were derived from 12-lead electrocardiography (ECG). Prevalence rates of heart rate corrected QT (QTc) >450ms and QT dispersion >60ms were determined to assess the number of subjects at risk for SCD. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to identify possible factors contributing to altered cardiac repolarization.


QTc was found to be prolonged in 31.9% and QT dispersion in 24.2% of the COPD patients compared to 12.5% in matched controls and 0% in healthy subjects. The QTc interval was longer in COPD patients compared to matched and healthy controls respectively (437.9 ± 29.5 vs. 420.1 ± 25.3 ms, p = 0.001 and vs. 413.4 ± 18.2 ms, p < 0.001). QT dispersion was significantly increased in COPD patients compared to healthy subjects (45.4 (34.8 , 59.5) vs. 39.7 (29.3 , 54.8) ms, p = 0.049). Only oxygen saturation was independently associated with QTc duration in multivariate analysis (β = -0.29, p = 0.015).


One third of a typical COPD population has altered cardiac repolarization and increased dispersion of repolarization, which may be related to hypoxia. Altered cardiac repolarization may expose these patients to an increased risk for malignant ventricular arrhythmias and SCD.