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Authors: Zs Major, R Kirschner, N Medvegy, K Kiss, GM Török, G Pavlik, G Simonyi, Zs Komka and M Medvegy

Background

Early repolarization in the anterior ECG leads (ERV2–4) is considered to be a sign of right ventricular (RV) remodeling, but its etiology and importance are unclear.

Methods

A total of 243 top-level endurance-trained athletes (ETA; 183 men and 60 women, weekly training hours: 15–20) and 120 leisure-time athletes (LTA; 71 men and 49 women, weekly training hours: 5–6) were investigated. The ERV2–4 sign was evaluated concerning type of sport, gender, transthoracic echocardiographic parameters, and ECG changes, which can indicate elevated RV systolic pressure [left atrium enlargement (LAE), right atrium enlargement (RAE), RV conduction defect (RVcd)].

Results

Stroke volume and left ventricular mass were higher in ETAs vs. LTAs in both genders (p < 0.01). Prevalence of the ERV2–4 sign was significantly higher in men than in women [p = 0.000, odds ratio (OR) = 36.4] and in ETAs than in LTAs (p = 0.000). The highest ERV2–4 prevalence appeared in the most highly trained triathlonists and canoe and kayak paddlers (OR = 13.8 and 5.2, respectively). Within the ETA group, the post-exercise LAE, RAE, and RVcd changes developed more frequently in cases with than without ERV2–4 (LAE: men: p < 0.05, females: p < 0.005; RAE: men: p < 0.05, females: p < 0.005; RVcd: N.S.). These post-exercise appearing LAE, RAE, and RVcd are associated with the ERV2–4 sign (OR = 4.0, 3.7, and 3.8, respectively).

Conclusions

According to these results, ERV2–4 develops mainly in male ETAs due to long-lasting and repeated endurance training. The ERV2–4 sign indicates RV’s adaptation to maintain higher compensatory pulmonary pressure and flow during exercise but its danger regarding malignant arrhythmias is unclear.

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