Electrophysiological evaluation of asymptomatic ventricular pre-excitation in children and adolescents

Berardo Sarubbi, Michele D'Alto, Pasquale Vergara, Raimondo Calvanese, Barbara Mercurio, Maria Giovanna Russo, Raffaele Calabrò

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Background: Diagnostic assessment and treatment have been described in detail in symptomatic WPW syndrome, but little information exists about significance and prognosis of an incidentally found ventricular pre-excitation (VPE) in asymptomatic children. The aim of the study was to evaluate, retrospectively, the role of electrophysiological study (EPS) in the assessment of the arrhythmic risk in asymptomatic patients with VPE. Material and Methods: Sixty-two asymptomatic children and adolescents (38 M/24 F, aged 9.8±5.1 years) referred to our Division between 1996 and 2002 for an incidentally found VPE underwent an EPS for arrhythmic risk stratification. The following parameters were examined: anterograde effective refractory period of the accessory pathway (AP), the 1-to-1 conduction over the AP, the inducibility of atrio-ventricular re-entrant tachycardia (AVRT) and the inducibility of atrial fibrillation (AF) with measurement of minimal RR between two consecutive preexcitated QRS complexes, the average RR interval of all cycles, and the percentage of preexcitated QRS complexes. Result: During the EPS, 36 patients (58.1%) experienced sustained SVT. The tachycardia was initiated in the basal state in 22 patients and after isoproterenol in the other 14. Orthodromic AVRT (cycle length 305.9±48.5 ms) was recorded in 29 patients. In three patients, both orthodromic and antidromic AVRT were recorded, with different cycle length (CL). Antidromic AVRT alone (CL 239.5±13.7 ms) was recorded in four patients. AF was recorded in nine patients: in six patients, it was recorded after the induction of orthodromic or antidromic AVRT, in the other three cases AF was the first and only arrhythmic event. The minimal RR between two consecutive pre-excitated QRS ranged between 250-230 ms (mean 237.5±9.6 ms). In the 26 patients who presented no induced sustained tachycardia in the EPS, the 1:1 conduction over the AP ranged between 210 and 600 ms (mean 279.6±75.2 ms). Conclusions: Electrophysiological evaluation remains the gold standard for assessing risk of life-threatening arrhythmias in patients with VPE. However, a high proportion of healthy children and adolescents with VPE can experience sustained AVRT and/or AF during EPS. These results raise questions about the necessity of an aggressive treatment approach to prevent those "rare" cases of sudden death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cardiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2005


  • Arrhythmias
  • Electrophysiological study
  • Sudden death
  • Ventricular pre-excitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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