An indispensable measure of heart health, T-wave alternans (TWA) is used in exercise stress treadmills and ambulatory monitoring equipment in hospitals and health care facilities around the world.
As its name indicates, sudden cardiac death provides doctors and patients with no warning: hearts that are beating normally one minute can, in the next minute, be in a state of ventricular fibrillation, wildly quivering, unable to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Identifying patients at highest risk for sudden death is one of cardiology’s biggest challenges. More than 20 years ago, cardiology investigators Richard Verrier, PhD, and Bruce Nearing, PhD, (pictured at right and left) came together to develop an alternative means to assess the heart’s electrical health. This key collaboration led to the creation of a novel algorithm that measures a phenomenon known as T-wave alternans (TWA). TWA describes a sophisticated electrocardiographic (ECG) pattern that indicates cardiac electrical instability. The algorithm – which classifies alternating heart beats in the stream of ECG data as either “A” or “B” and generates representative “A” and “B” complexes – was licensed to GE Healthcare in 2000. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003, Verrier and Nearing’s invention has emerged as GE’s Marquette T-Wave Alternans analysis program. An indispensable measure of heart health, TWA is used in exercise stress treadmills and ambulatory monitoring equipment in hospitals and health care facilities around the world. By revealing a detailed and nuanced portrait of the heart’s electrical function and responsiveness to the nervous system, TWA provides cardiologists with a warning of sudden cardiac death -- and provides them the opportunity to intervene in patients deemed to be at highest risk.