Usefulness of Total 12-Lead QRS Voltage as a Clue to Diagnosis of Patients With Cardiac Sarcoidosis Severe Enough to Warrant Orthotopic Heart Transplant

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Severe heart failure caused by cardiac sarcoidosis is difficult to diagnosis without biopsy.


To assess whether total electrocardiographic 12-lead QRS voltage may be a clue to diagnosis.

Design, Setting, Participants

Case-series study with cases collected at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas, from January 13, 2005, to January 24, 2017. The clinical records of 16 patients with severe heart failure caused by cardiac sarcoidosis were studied. Examination of total 12-lead electrocardiographic QRS voltage (peak of the R wave to the nadir of either the Q or S wave, whichever was deeper) was performed prior to orthotopic heart transplant (OHT). Gross and microscopic pathologic specimens of the native hearts were studied.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome was to correlate the total 12-lead QRS voltage measurement with various morphologic features in the native diseased heart.


The 16-patient study group consisted of 8 men and 8 women; 12 (75%) were white and 4 (25%) were black. At the time of OHT, patient age ranged from 50 to 67 years (mean, 57 years). Cardiac sarcoidosis was diagnosed by pre-OHT biopsy results in 2 (13%) patients and by examination of the native heart after OHT in 14 (87%) patients. Total nonpaced 12-lead QRS voltage mean was 117 mm (range, 52-155 mm) for 8 patients and total paced 12-lead QRS voltage was 90 mm (range, 67-161 mm) for 12 patients. These low mean values were similar to those of patients with carcinoid heart disease (mean [SD], 105 [40] mm), cardiac amyloidosis (104 [35] mm), and severe cardiac adiposity (120 [31] mm) studied at necropsy or after OHT. In contrast, mean (SD) values were 323 (109) mm in patients with massive cardiomegaly, 257 mm in patients with severe aortic stenosis, 272 (86) mm in patients with severe pure aortic regurgitation, 220 (67) mm in patients with severe pure mitral regurgitation, 197 (64) mm in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and 153 (40) mm in patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

Conclusions and Relevance

Most patients diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis causing severe heart failure and warranting OHT had low total 12-lead QRS voltage measurements despite having native hearts of increased weight. This finding may provide a clue to the diagnosis of this disease.

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