In order to determine the relation between three manifestations of left ventricular hypertrophy--ST-T wave changes on the electrocardiogram, diastolic disturbances, and increased myocardial echo intensity--M mode and cross sectional echocardiograms were recorded in 12 normal subjects, 15 athletes, 16 patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and 42 patients with secondary left ventricular hypertrophy due to aortic stenosis (20), severe essential hypertension (8), coarctation (7), or subaortic stenosis (7). M mode echocardiograms were digitised and cross sectional echocardiograms were analysed for regional echo intensity. In patients with hypertrophy regional echo amplitude was significantly increased in mid and basal septum and posterior left ventricular wall. Patients with increased echo amplitude in any region showed a higher incidence of ST-T wave abnormalities than those without and of diastolic abnormalities--including prolongation of isovolumic relaxation time, delay in mitral valve opening with respect to minimum cavity dimension, and a reduction in peak rate of posterior wall thinning and dimension increase. There was a significant rank order correlation between median pixel count and these diastolic abnormalities. No significant differences were demonstrable in these relations between the diagnostic groups. By contrast, electrocardiographic findings, diastolic function, and pixel count were uniformly normal in athletes, although the increase in left ventricular mass was similar to that in the patients. Thus an increase in left ventricular mass alone is not responsible for repolarisation or wall motion abnormalities occurring in pathological left ventricular hypertrophy. These latter changes are, however, strongly associated with the change in myocardial properties detected as an increase in echo intensity and may be due to increased interstitial fibrosis.
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