QTc prolongation in adolescents with acute alcohol intoxication

Loes de Veld, Nico van der Lely, Ben J. M. Hermans, Joris J. van Hoof, Lichelle Wong, Arja Suzanne Vink

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In adults, alcohol intoxication is associated with prolongation of the QT interval corrected for heart rate (QTc). The QTc is influenced by age and sex. Although alcohol intoxication is increasingly common in adolescents, there are no data on the prevalence of QTc prolongation in adolescents with alcohol intoxication. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of QTc prolongation in adolescents with alcohol intoxication and identify at-risk adolescents. In this observational study including adolescents aged 10–18 years, heart rate and QT interval were automatically assessed from an electrocardiogram (ECG) at alcohol intoxication using a validated algorithm. The QTc was calculated using both the Bazett formula (QTcB) and Fridericia formula (QTcF). If present, an ECG recorded within 1 year of the date of admission to the emergency department was obtained as a reference ECG. A total of 317 adolescents were included; 13.3% had a QTcB and 7.9% a QTcF longer than the sex- and age-specific 95th-percentile. None of the adolescents had a QTcB or QTcF > 500 ms, but 11.8% of the adolescents with a reference ECG had a QTcB prolongation of > 60 ms, while no adolescents had a QTcF prolongation of > 60 ms. QTc prolongation was mainly attributable to an increase in heart rate rather than QT prolongation, which underlies the differences between QTcB and QTcF. Male sex and hypokalaemia increased the likelihood of QTc prolongation. Conclusion: QTc prolongation was seen in approximately 10% of the adolescents presenting with alcohol intoxication, and although no ventricular arrhythmias were observed in this cohort, QTc prolongation increases the potential for malignant QT-related arrhythmias. Clinicians must be aware of the possibility of QTc prolongation during alcohol intoxication and make an effort to obtain an ECG at presentation, measure the QT interval, and give an adequate assessment of the findings. We advocate admitting adolescents with alcohol intoxication and QTc prolongation. During hospital admission, we recommend limiting exposure to QTc-prolonging medication, increasing potassium levels to a high-normal range (4.5–5.0 mmol/L) and obtaining a reference ECG at discharge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2757-2770
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number7
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Electrocardiogram
  • QTc prolongation

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