The electrocardiographic and vectorcardiographic (Frank system) features of the first degree relatives of subjects with documented familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy were analysed. A total of nine affected members and 29 relatives were examined in four families. THe subjects were considered to be affected when the septal to free posterior wall thickness ratio exceeded 1.3 at M-mode echocardiography. Four relatives had asymmetric septal hypertrophy. Among 25 relatives without evidence of asymmetric septal hypertrophy, two over 20 years and 10 under 20 years of age showed increased voltage of QRS anterior forces (Qz amplitude greater than 0.80 mV) on the orthogonal electrocardiogram. The vectorcardiographic data of the relatives under 20 years of age without evidence of asymmetric septal hypertrophy (18 subjects) were compared with those of 38 normal control subjects of comparable age range. The young relatives without disproportionate septal hypertrophy had significantly greater Qz amplitude and Q/Rz ratio than the normal control subjects. In contrast, the echocardiographic data were not significantly different. We suggest that the electrocardiographic finding of abnormal anterior forces in one or more first degree relatives of subjects with documented hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may constitute a valuable aid in ascertaining the genetic transmission of the disease and in recognising affected members without echocardiographic evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
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