The T wave is rarely bifid, apart from patients with long QT syndrome or subjects treated with antiarrhythmic drugs. At times, a U wave partially superimposed upon the T wave is responsible for an apparently bifid T wave. Bifid T waves, in contrast, have been described in normal children in the past, but the phenomenon has not received any attention in recent years, to the extent that it is not mentioned in current textbooks of paediatric cardiology. Aim of the present study was to determine the incidence and clinical counterpart of bifid T waves in a paediatric population.
We selected 604 consecutive children free from clinically detectable heart disease; subjects whose electrocardiogram showed a bifid T wave underwent a complete clinical and echocardiographic examination. In addition, the electrocardiograms of 110 consecutive adults have also been analyzed. A T wave was considered as bifid whenever it was notched, being the 2 peaks separated from each other by a notch with duration ≥ 0.02 sec and voltage ≥ 0.05 mV. Moreover, in 7 children with bifid T wave in lead V2 further precordial recordings were obtained: a small electrode was gradually moved from V1 to V3, and 4 additional leads were recorded: 2 between V1 an V2, and 2 between V2 and V3.
A bifid T wave was observed in 110 children (18,3%), with a relatively age-related incidence; the highest rate of bifid T waves (53%) occurred in the group of 5-year-old children. The bifid T wave was detected only in lead V2 in 51 cases (46,4%), only in lead V3 in 5 cases (4,6%), in both leads V2 and V3 in 50 cases (45,4%), and in leads other than V2 and V3 in 4 cases (3,6%). In the adult group, none of the examined electrocardiograms showed bifid T waves in any lead.
In the bifid T wave paediatric population, the echocardiogram did not reveal any abnormality, apart from 3 subjects which had an asymptomatic mitral valve prolapse; a trivial mitral and/or tricuspid regurgitation detected by color Doppler, as well as a patent foramen ovale in infants, were not considered as abnormal findings. The QTc interval was normal in all of the subjects; the average QTc interval was not different in the bifid T wave population (402 ± 46 msec) with respect to the control group (407 ± 39 msec).
The incidence of bifid T waves in leads V2 and V3 in normal children is high, and awareness of this phenomenon avoids possible misinterpretations leading to a diagnosis of ECG abnormalities.