Wellens’ sign is considered to be an ominous sign indicative of underlying significant proximal left anterior descending artery stenosis. We sought to identify the prevalence of the Wellens’ pattern in a large ethnically diverse urban population and assess its association with the presence and extent of coronary artery disease.
We utilized the MUSE ECG database of Montefiore Medical Center, an academic tertiary health care system, to identify ECGs from 2012 to 2019 exhibiting a Wellens’ pattern. From a dataset of 1.76 million tracings, six screening diagnosis codes were selected to approximate the Wellens’ pattern. These codes were used to generate a cohort of ECGs for manual review by a board certified cardiologist to determine if a Wellens’ pattern was present.
Of 1,756,742 ECGs performed on 433,218 patients from 2012 to 2019; after initial screening 2186 ECGs were identified for manual review. Of these, 448 (0.1%) patients were confirmed to have a Wellens’ pattern. 229 patients underwent cardiac catheterization, while 219 patients were managed medically. No statistical difference was seen in the occurrence of Wellens’ Type A and B pattern across the ethnic groups after multivariate analysis. Women were more likely to have Type B Wellens’ compared to men (OR 2.40 (1.58, 3.62) P < 0.0001). 80 (35%) patients had single vessel LAD disease of which 22 (10%) had proximal, 40 (17%) had mid, 4 (1%) had distal stenosis, while diffuse LAD disease was seen in 14 (6%) patients. Two vessel disease was seen in 46 (20%) patients with a Wellens' pattern, and triple vessel disease was seen in 23 (10%) patients. Of note, 71 (31%) patients had either normal or nonobstructive coronary disease despite exhibiting a Wellens' pattern ECG.
Wellens’ sign is a rare electrocardiographic pattern which when seen in a patient with an appropriate clinical presentation, suggests but is not definitive for the presence of significant coronary disease, often but not exclusively in an LAD distribution. We found no statistical difference in the occurrence of Wellens’ sign among different racial/ethnic groups. Patients with a Wellens’ pattern may have critical lesions at a variety of LAD sites as well as in multiple vessels. As such, the interventionalist needs to be prepared for these uncertainties at the time of cardiac catheterization.

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