COPD 2013 Feb;10(1):62-71
Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Electrocardiography (ECG) carries information about cardiac disease and prognosis, but studies comparing ECG characteristics between patients with and without COPD are lacking. We related ECG characteristics of patients with COPD, to ECG characteristics of patients without COPD, and determined whether ECG abnormalities are related to COPD severity. A cross-sectional study was conducted within a cohort of 243 COPD patients, aged 65 years or older. All patients underwent extensive examinations, including resting 12-lead ECG and pulmonary function tests. The reference group (n = 293) was a sample from the general population, also aged 65 or older, without COPD. Abnormal ECGs were more prevalent in COPD patients (50%) than in patients without COPD (36%, p = 0.054). Conduction abnormalities were the most common ECG abnormality in COPD patients (28%) being significantly more prevalent than in patients without COPD (11%, p < 0.001). The mean heart rate was higher in COPD patients (72 bpm (SD 14)) compared to controls (65 bpm (SD 13), p < 0.001), and QTc prolongation was less frequent in COPD patients (9% versus 14%, p = 0.01). The prevalence of ECG abnormalities increased with severity of pulmonary obstruction. ECG abnormalities, especially conduction abnormalities are common in COPD patients, and the prevalence of ECG abnormalities increases with severity of COPD. This underlines the importance of an integrated-care approach for COPD patients, paying attention to early detection of unrecognized coexisting cardiac disorders.