The prevalence of QT prolongation in a population of patients with substance use disorders

Alexander J. Scott, Adrian J. Dunlop, Amanda Brown, Craig Sadler, Geoffrey K. Isbister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Introduction and Aims: Drug induced QT prolongation occurs in patients with substance use disorders from prescription medications that prolong the QT, such as methadone. Knowing the prevalence of QT prolongation in this population is important for prescribers. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of QT prolongation in patients with current substance use disorders. Design and Methods: We undertook a retrospective review of electrocardiograms (ECG) from patients with substance use disorders from an urban general hospital with a large drug and alcohol service and toxicology unit. ECGs were taken from patients seen by the alcohol and drug unit over three years. The QT interval was measured manually on each ECG and defined as abnormal if above the line on the QT nomogram. The QT was also heart rate corrected using Fridericia's formula (QTcF) to investigate associated factors. Results: Nine of 446 (2.0%; 95% confidence interval 1.0–3.9%) patients had an ECG with a prolonged QT interval. Three were prescribed methadone for opiate dependence (80, 90 and 125 mg daily), one also with hypokalemia; one prescribed escitalopram with hypokalaemia/hypomagnesaemia; three more with hypokalaemia alone. Only two patients had a prolonged QT with no identifiable cause. There was no association between QTcF and sex (P = 0.34), but there was a statistically significant association with age (Pearson R = 0.19, 95% confidence interval 0.10–0.28, P < 0.0001). Discussion and Conclusions: QT prolongation is rare in patients with substance use disorders and is most likely similar to the general population once cases related to methadone use and electrolyte abnormalities are excluded. [Scott AJ, Dunlop AJ, Brown A, Craig S. The prevalence of QT prolongation in a population of patients with substance use disorders. Drug Alcohol Rev 2017;36:239-244].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-244
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • drug and alcohol
  • electrocardiogram
  • methadone
  • population
  • QT interval

Cite this