Phenotypes of Overdiagnosed Long QT Syndrome

Sahej Bains, Raquel Neves, J. Martijn Bos, John R. Giudicessi, Ciorsti MacIntyre, Michael John Ackerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Long QT syndrome (LQTS) predisposes individuals to arrhythmic syncope or seizure, sudden cardiac arrest, or sudden cardiac death (SCD). Increased physician and public awareness of LQTS-associated warning signs and an increase in electrocardiographic screening programs may contribute to overdiagnosis of LQTS. Objectives: This study sought to identify the diagnostic miscues underlying the continued overdiagnosis of LQTS. Methods: Electronic medical records were reviewed for patients who arrived with an outside diagnosis of LQTS but were dismissed as having normal findings subsequently. Data were abstracted for details on referral, clinical history, and both cardiologic and genetic test results. Results: Overall, 290 of 1,841 (16%) patients with original diagnosis of LQTS (174 [60%] female; mean age at first Mayo Clinic evaluation, 22 ± 14 years; mean QTc interval, 427 ± 25 milliseconds) were dismissed as having normal findings. The main cause of LQTS misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis was a prolonged QTc interval secondary to vasovagal syncope (n = 87; 30%), followed by a seemingly positive genetic test result for a variant in 1 of the main LQTS genes (n = 68; 23%) that was ultimately deemed not to be of clinical significance. Furthermore, patients received misdiagnoses because of a positive family history of SCD that was deemed unrelated to LQTS (n = 46; 16%), isolated/transient QT prolongation (n = 44; 15%), or misinterpretation of the QTc interval as a result of inclusion of the U-wave (n = 40, 14%). Conclusions: Knowing the 5 main determinants of discordance between a previously rendered diagnosis of LQTS and full diagnostic reversal or removal (vasovagal syncope, “pseudo”-positive genetic test result in LQTS-causative genes, family history of SCD, transient QT prolongation, and misinterpretation of the QTc interval) increases awareness and provides critical guidance to reduce this burden of overdiagnosed LQTS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-486
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 7 2023


  • electrocardiography
  • genetic screening
  • long QT syndrome
  • sudden death
  • syncope
  • VUS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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