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Original research article
Distinguishing between those dying suddenly or not suddenly from coronary heart disease: long-term prospective results from the Northwick Park Heart Study
  1. Tom Meade1,
  2. Tim Clayton2 and
  3. Douglas Chamberlain3
  1. 1Department of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, East Sussex, Brighton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tom Meade; tom.meade{at}


Aim To establish whether ECG findings are associated with subsequent risk of sudden death from coronary heart disease (CHD).

Methods and results Potential risk factors for CHD were measured at entry to the first Northwick Park Heart Study of 2167 men. ECG findings were coded as high or low risk for CHD according to definitions in the Minnesota code. Sudden or non-sudden deaths were defined as occurring in less than or more than 24 hours, respectively. The only factor independently associated with sudden death among the 262 men dying of CHD was high-risk ECG. Of 184 sudden CHD deaths, 34 men (18.5%) had had high-risk ECGs at entry to the study compared with 5 (6.4%) of 78 men who experienced non-sudden deaths (adjusted OR 3.94 (95% CI 1.33 to 11.67)) (p=0.006). Findings were also compared among all 2167 men, where high-risk ECGs were again associated with sudden death. T-wave changes were the main abnormalities associated with a high risk of sudden death.

Conclusions In a group of men who had not previously experienced major episodes of CHD but who subsequently died from it, there was strong evidence that high-risk ECG changes, mainly T-wave abnormalities, differentiated between those who later died sudden deaths and those who survived for >24 hours.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Funding This work was supported by Medical Research Council (EPNCAC86).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Please see text in Methods.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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