In a study on the prognostic significance of catecholamine-linked ECG changes in 40 cases of subarachnoid haemorrhage, there were 16 men of mean age 41 years (range 13-56) and 24 women of mean age 42 years (range 11-65). There were six deaths, and five of these patients had consistently abnormal ECGs. Analysis of the abnormal components of ECGs revealed that the presence of either a pathological Q wave or a raised S-T segment indicated a poor prognosis. The two patients with pathological Q waves both died, and the three patients with raised S-T segments all developed cerebral arterial spasm, one of whom died. A high incidence of peaked P waves, short P-R intervals, a long Q-Tc, and tall U waves occurred in the ECGs of six patients who died, the 15 patients with cerebral arterial spasm, and the seven patients who were later to develop cerebral arterial spasm. Three of the latter eventually died, in contrast with the single death in the 22 patients who did not develop cerebral arterial spasm and had a low incidence of P wave peaking, short P-R intervals, a long Q-Tc, and tall U waves. Various combinations of these four ECG changes, in addition to peaking of the T wave, indicated a bad prognosis irrespective of the type of treatment. The criteria for prognosis on the role of catecholamines in causing the ECG abnormalities are discussed.
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