Prevalence of QTc Prolongation in Patients With Advanced Cancer Receiving Palliative Care-A Cause for Concern?

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Journal Article
Journal of pain and symptom management, 2020, 59, (4), pp. 856-863
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CONTEXT:Medications commonly used for symptom control along with other known risk factors have the potential to prolong ventricular repolarization as measured by the QT interval (the time from the start of the Q wave to the end of the T wave) on a standard electrocardiogram (ECG). OBJECTIVES:To document the prevalence of a prolonged QT interval corrected for heart rate (QTc) interval in the palliative/oncology setting, compare automatic ECG QTc measurements with manual readings and identify any correlation between QTc prolongation and the use of drugs or other risk factors. METHODS:A convenience sample of consecutive patients with cancer, admitted under or known to the palliative/supportive care teams in two metropolitan hospitals, and willing to provide an ECG recording and basic demographic information including QTc risk factors were included. Both automated and manually calculated QTc intervals were recorded. Multivariable analysis was used to determine risk factors independently associated with prolonged QTc intervals. RESULTS:Of the 389 participants, there was a significant difference in mean QTc between sites using automated but not manual calculations. Manual readings were therefore used with predetermined cutoffs of 0.44 seconds (males) and 0.46 seconds (females). Seventy-two (18.5%) of the participants had a prolonged QTc with six (1.5%) having a prolongation of >0.50 seconds. At-risk drugs were being taken by 218 participants (56.0% of total cohort). Factors shown to be associated with QTc prolongation included age, gender, performance status, and hypocalcemia. No specific medication was associated with increased risk. CONCLUSION:Although almost 20% of patients receiving palliative care had prolongation of QTc, the possibility of serious consequences appeared to be low despite the frequent occurrence of risk factors.
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