Mortality Risk Increases With Clustered Ventricular Arrhythmias in Patients With Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators
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OBJECTIVES: This study sought to examine the adverse prognosis associated with ventricular arrhythmia clusters that falls outside the current electrical storm definition. BACKGROUND: Electrical storm is most frequently defined as a cluster of ≥3 episodes of ventricular arrhythmia (VA) in a 24-h period. This definition has been associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes and mortality, but the effect of lesser and greater clustering of arrhythmias has not been described. METHODS: Among all patients in the Resynchronization in Ambulatory Heart Failure trial, 14,515 implantable cardioverter-defibrillator-detected events with data available were rigorously adjudicated in blinded fashion. Arrhythmia incidence was examined for clustering, defined as 2 or more VA events occurring within 3 months. The prognostic importance of clustering was analyzed by varying the cluster length and number of events used to define a cluster. Mortality rates of groups with clustered arrhythmias were compared to patients with no arrhythmia or with unclustered arrhythmia. RESULTS: The trial included 1,764 patients, among whom 465 patients had two or more VA episodes within 3 months, whereas 406 had unclustered arrhythmias. Compared to patients with no arrhythmia, patients experiencing unclustered VA had increased risk of death (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.45; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.09 to 1.93; p = 0.011), whereas the risk was even higher in patients with clustered arrhythmia (HR: 2.68; 95% CI: 2.13 to 3.36; p < 0.0001). Mortality risk increased with higher VA burden (number of VAs in a cluster) and shorter cluster length. This was observed in all groups tested, including the cluster with the least VA burden in the longest cluster length tested (2 VA episodes occurring within 3 months) (mortality HR: 2.85; 95% CI: 1.95 to 4.17; p < 0.0001). Although clustered arrhythmias terminated with antitachycardia pacing were associated with increased mortality, clusters terminated with implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shocks were associated with still higher mortality risk. CONCLUSIONS: Significant adverse prognostic association of clustered VAs is observable with even 2 VA events within 3 months and increases with higher cluster density.