A 71 year old man with hypertensive heart disease and chronic renal failure was wearing a Holter monitor when he had a cardiac arrest. He had ventricular fibrillation (VF) and died despite prompt resuscitation. In the 15 minutes preceding the VF there was a sudden increase in heart rate, followed by a brief period of atrial fibrillation leading to ventricular tachycardia, which in turn rapidly degenerated into VF. The QT interval and heart rate variability were studied half hourly over the seven hours preceding the cardiac arrest, using a computerised Holter system. A further detailed analysis was performed over the final hour before the cardiac arrest. An abrupt increase in the steepness of the QT/RR slope, a prolonged QTc, and a reduction in the heart rate variability were observed in the interval that immediately preceded the onset of the terminal rhythm disturbance.
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