PURPOSE: The cardiac T-wave peak-to-end interval (Tpe) is thought to reflect dispersion in ventricular repolarisation, with abnormalities in Tpe associated with increased risk of arrhythmia. Extracellular K+ modulates cardiac repolarisation, and since arterial plasma K+ concentration ([K+]) rapidly increases during and declines following exercise, we investigated the relationship between [K+] and Tpe with exercise.
METHODS: Serial ECGs (Tpe, Tpe/QT ratio) and [K+] were obtained from 8 healthy, normokalaemic volunteers and 22 patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), at rest, during, and after exhaustive exercise.
RESULTS: Post-exercise [K+] nadir was 3.1 ± 0.1, 5.0 ± 0.2 and 4.0 ± 0.1 mmol.L-1 (mean ± SEM) for healthy participants and ESRD patients before and after haemodialysis, respectively. In healthy participants, compared to pre-exercise, recovery-induced low [K+] was associated with a prolongation of Tpe (110 ± 8 vs. 87 ± 5 ms, respectively, p = 0.03) and an increase in Tpe/QT ratio (0.28 ± 0.01 vs. 0.23 ± 0.01, respectively, p = 0.01). Analyses of serial data revealed [K+] as a predictor of Tpe in healthy participants (β = -0.54 ±0.05, p < 0.0001), in ESRD patients (β = -0.75 ± 0.06, p < 0.0001) and for all data pooled (β = -0.61 ± 0.04, p < 0.0001). The [K+] was also a predictor of Tpe/QT ratio in healthy participants and ESRD patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Tpe and Tpe/QT ratio are predicted by [K+] during exercise. Low [K+] during recovery from exercise was associated with increased Tpe and Tpe/QT, indicating accentuated dispersion of ventricular repolarisation. The findings suggest that variations in [K+] with physical exertion may unmask electrophysiological vulnerabilities to arrhythmia.