Objective Despite the widespread and increasing use of ambulatory electrocardiography (ECG), there is no consensus on reference ranges for ambulatory electrocardiogram parameters to guide interpretation. We sought to determine population distribution-based reference ranges for parameters measured during ambulatory electrocardiogram in healthy adults, based on existing literature.
Methods We searched multiple databases from 1950 to 2020. Articles reporting original data from ≥24-hour ambulatory electrocardiogram monitoring in healthy adults were included. Data extraction and synthesis were performed according to Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology guidelines. The prevalence/mean and SD for common parameters (sinus pauses, conduction abnormalities and ectopy) were extracted by age group (18–39, 40–59, 60–79 and 80+ years).
Results We identified 33 studies involving 6466 patients. Sinus pauses of >3 s were rare (pooled prevalence <1%) across all ages. Supraventricular ectopy of >1000/24 hours increased with age, from 0% (95% CI 0% to 0%) in those aged 18–39 years to 6% (95% CI 0% to 17%) in those aged 60–79 years. Episodes of supraventricular tachycardia increased from 3% (95% CI 1% to 6%) in those aged 18–39 years to 28% (95% CI 9% to 52%) in those aged 60–79 years. Ventricular ectopy of >1000/24 hours also increased with age, from 1% (95% CI 0% to 2%) in those aged 18–39 years to 5% (95% CI 1% to 10%) in those aged 60–79 years. Episodes of non-sustained ventricular tachycardia ranged from 0% (95% CI 0% to 1%) in those aged 18–39 years to 2% (95% CI 0% to 5%) in those aged 60–79 years.
Conclusion Despite the limitations of existing published data, this meta-analysis provides evidence-based reference ranges for ambulatory electrocardiogram parameters and highlights significant age-dependent differences that should be taken into account during interpretation.
- premature ventricular beats
- supraventricular arrhythmias
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Contributors MWD, CC, JA and CW were responsible for the design of the study. MWD and CW extracted the data. JA, CC, NMH and AK assisted with the data analysis. All of the authors provided critical review of the manuscript and data analysis. MWD is responsible for the overall content of this study.
Funding This work was supported by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (grant 5967).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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