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Clinical and therapeutic aspects of congenital and acquired long QT syndrome

  • Ijaz A Khan
    Correspondence
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Ijaz A. Khan, MD, Creighton University Cardiac Center, 3006 Webster Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68131-2044, USA
    Affiliations
    Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
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      Abstract

      The long QT syndrome is characterized by prolongation of the corrected QT (QTc) interval on the surface electrocardiogram. It is associated with precipitation of a polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, torsade de pointes, which may cause sudden death. The syndrome is a disorder of cardiac repolarization caused by the alterations in the transmembrane potassium and sodium currents. Six genetic loci for the congenital forms of the syndrome have been identified; sporadic cases occur because of spontaneous mutations. Acquired causes of the long QT syndrome include drugs, electrolyte imbalance, toxins, marked bradycardia, subarachnoid hemorrhage, stroke, myocardial ischemia, protein-sparing fasting, autonomic neuropathy, and human immunodeficiency virus disease. Clinical symptoms are the result of the precipitation of torsade de pointes and range from such minor symptoms as dizziness to syncope and sudden death. Short-term treatment is aimed at preventing the recurrences of torsade de pointes and includes intravenous magnesium and potassium administration, temporary cardiac pacing, and correction of electrolyte imbalance; rarely, intravenous isoproterenol is indicated. Long-term management includes use of beta-blockers, permanent pacemaker placement, and cardioverter-defibrillator implantation. Asymptomatic patients are treated if under the age of 40 years at the time of diagnosis.

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