Automated measurements of electrocardiographic (ECG) intervals by current-generation digital electrocardiographs are critical to computer-based ECG diagnostic statements, to serial comparison of ECGs, and to epidemiological studies of ECG findings in populations. A previous study demonstrated generally small but often significant systematic differences among 4 algorithms widely used for automated ECG in the United States and that measurement differences could be related to the degree of abnormality of the underlying tracing. Since that publication, some algorithms have been adjusted, whereas other large manufacturers of automated ECGs have asked to participate in an extension of this comparison.Methods:
Seven widely used automated algorithms for computer-based interpretation participated in this blinded study of 800 digitized ECGs provided by the Cardiac Safety Research Consortium. All tracings were different from the study of 4 algorithms reported in 2014, and the selected population was heavily weighted toward groups with known effects on the QT interval: included were 200 normal subjects, 200 normal subjects receiving moxifloxacin as part of an active control arm of thorough QT studies, 200 subjects with genetically proved long QT syndrome type 1 (LQT1), and 200 subjects with genetically proved long QT syndrome Type 2 (LQT2).Results:
For the entire population of 800 subjects, pairwise differences between algorithms for each mean interval value were clinically small, even where statistically significant, ranging from 0.2 to 3.6 milliseconds for the PR interval, 0.1 to 8.1 milliseconds for QRS duration, and 0.1 to 9.3 milliseconds for QT interval. The mean value of all paired differences among algorithms was higher in the long QT groups than in normals for both QRS duration and QT intervals. Differences in mean QRS duration ranged from 0.2 to 13.3 milliseconds in the LQT1 subjects and from 0.2 to 11.0 milliseconds in the LQT2 subjects. Differences in measured QT duration (not corrected for heart rate) ranged from 0.2 to 10.5 milliseconds in the LQT1 subjects and from 0.9 to 12.8 milliseconds in the LQT2 subjects.Conclusions:
Among current-generation computer-based electrocardiographs, clinically small but statistically significant differences exist between ECG interval measurements by individual algorithms. Measurement differences between algorithms for QRS duration and for QT interval are larger in long QT interval subjects than in normal subjects. Comparisons of population study norms should be aware of small systematic differences in interval measurements due to different algorithm methodologies, within-individual interval measurement comparisons should use comparable methods, and further attempts to harmonize interval measurement methodologies are warranted.