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One hundred twelve patients in preterm labor were followed prospectively, with electrocardiograms taken before ritodrine therapy and at 6 and 24 hours of treatment. Ninety-six percent of patients developed sinus tachycardia. Other changes were seen in 79% of the study group. These changes included ST segment depression in 70%, T wave flattening or inversion in 55%, and prolongation of the QT interval in 35% of our sample. None of the electrocardiograms showed the presence of significant axis deviation, a change in QRS interval, or arrhythmia. No correlation was seen between symptoms of ischemia and electrocardiographic changes. A drop in potassium concentration was noted initially, but a direct correlation between potassium concentrations and frequency of electrocardiographic changes was not present. We conclude that the electrocardiographic changes that are often observed during myocardial ischemia may be frequent in asymptomatic patients treated with ritodrine and that these changes may be a physiologic expression of ritodrine-induced tachycardia or hypokalemia. The validity of the use of the presence of electrocardiographic changes as the only criterion for discontinuation of ritodrine therapy is questioned.
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Accepted: December 12, 1985
Received in revised form: December 6, 1985
Received: August 23, 1985
© 1986 Published by Elsevier Inc.