Objective evidence of occult myocardial dysfunction in patients with frequent ventricular ectopy without clinically apparent heart disease

Harold L. Kennedy
Janet E. Pescarmona
Richard J. Bouchard
Robert J. Goldberg, University of Massachusetts Medical School
D. G. Caralis


Eighteen asymptomatic persons without apparent cardiac disease were incidentally discovered to have frequent ventricular ectopic activity (VEA) (more than a mean of 100 b/hr during 24-hour ambulatory ECG examination) and were found by cardiac catheterization to have normal coronary arteriograms. Thirteen persons (72%) also demonstrated complex (multiform or repetitive patterns) VEA and eight persons were found to have undiagnosed hypertension. Examination of left ventricular (LV) angiographic and hemodynamic data of these persons showed elevated LV end-systolic volume index in 10 persons (56%), elevated LV and end-diastolic volume index in 12 persons (67%) and elevated LV end-diastolic pressure in 11 persons (61%). Although ejection fractions of all but three persons were normal, impaired myocardial contractility, as measured by decreased mean velocity of circumferential fiber shortening (less than 1.0 circ/sec), was found in 10 persons (56%). Abnormalities of LV function were more prevalent in persons with higher mean frequencies of VEA (more than 300 b/hr), but did not seem related to the presence of complex VEA. Etiologic mechanisms of the frequent and complex VEA could not be defined. We conclude that subclinical evidence of myocardial dysfunction is present in some persons without apparent cardiac disease who have frequent VEA as evidence by subtle abnormalities of increased LV volumes and end-diastolic pressure and decreased mean velocity of myocardial circumferential fiber shortening.