Objectives The short QT syndrome is a cardiac channelopathy characterised by accelerated repolarisation which manifests as a short QT interval on the ECG. The definition of a short QT interval is debated, ranging from <390 to ≤320 ms, and its clinical significance in healthy young individuals is unknown. We assessed the prevalence and medium-term significance of an isolated short QT interval in a diverse young British population.
Methods Between 2005 and 2013, 18 825 apparently healthy people aged 14–35 years underwent cardiovascular evaluation with history, physical examination and ECG. QT intervals were measured by cardiologists using 4 recommended guidelines (Seattle 2013, Heart Rhythm Society 2013, European Society of Cardiology 2010 and American Heart Association 2009).
Results The prevalence of a short QT interval was 0.1% (26 patients, ≤320 ms), 0.2% (44 patients, ≤330 ms), 7.9% (1478 patients, <380 ms), 15.8% (2973 patients, <390 ms). Male gender and Afro-Caribbean ethnicity had the strongest association with short QT intervals. Athletes had shorter QT intervals than non-athletes but athletic status did not predict short QT intervals. Individuals with short QT intervals ≤320 ms did not report syncope or a sinister family history, and during a follow-up period of 5.3±1.2 years, there were no deaths in this group.
Conclusions The prevalence of a short QT interval depends on the recommended cut-off value. Even at values ≤320 ms, there was an excellent medium-term prognosis among 14 people followed. We conclude that a definition of ≤320 ms is realistic to prevent overdiagnosis and excessive investigations.