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Test identifies people at cardiac risk

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2:09pm, November 28, 2006

From Chicago, at a meeting of the American Heart Association

Measurement of an electrical abnormality in the heart aids doctors in determining who is most at risk for cardiac arrest, according to a new study.

Computers can detect the abnormality, called T-wave alternans, during an electrocardiogram, a recording of the heart's electrical activity. Since T-wave alternans often precedes sudden cardiac arrest, researchers have suggested that it could be used to decide which patients need implanted defibrillators (SN: 9/23/06, p. 202: Available to subscribers at Calling Death's Bluff). Those devices sit inside the chest and deliver a therapeutic shock when the heart needs it. However, many patients get defibrillators unnecessarily.

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