Wellens' syndrome

Wellens' syndrome is an electrocardiographic manifestation of critical proximal left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery stenosis in patients with unstable angina. Originally thought of as two separate presentations, A and B, it is now considered an evolving wave form, initially of biphasic T wave inversions and later becoming symmetrical, often deep (>2 mm), T wave inversions in the anterior precordial leads.[1]

Wellens' syndrome
Other namesWellens' sign, Wellens' warning, Wellens' waves
EKG of a 69-year-old black male with Wellens' syndrome. Visible in leads V1-V4, here with a biphasic T-wave with negativisation.

First described by Hein J. J. Wellens and colleagues in 1982 in a subgroup of patients with unstable angina,[2] it does not seem to be rare, appearing in 18% of patients in his original study. A subsequent prospective study identified this syndrome in 14% of patients at presentation and 60% of patients within the first 24 hours.[3]

The presence of Wellens' syndrome carries significant diagnostic and prognostic value. All patients in the De Zwann's study with characteristic findings had more than 50% stenosis of the left anterior descending artery (mean = 85% stenosis) with complete or near-complete occlusion in 59%. In the original Wellens' study group, 75% of those with the typical syndrome manifestations had an anterior myocardial infarction. Sensitivity and specificity for significant (more or equal to 70%) stenosis of the LAD artery was found to be 69% and 89%, respectively, with a positive predictive value of 86%.[4]

Wellens' sign has also been seen as a rare presentation of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or stress cardiomyopathy.


  • Progressive symmetrical deep T wave inversion in leads V2 and V3
  • Slope of inverted T waves generally at 60°-90°
  • Little or no cardiac marker elevation
  • Discrete or no ST segment elevation
  • No loss of precordial R waves.


  1. Tandy, TK; Bottomy DP; Lewis JG (March 1999). "Wellens' syndrome". Annals of Emergency Medicine. 33 (3): 347–351. doi:10.1016/S0196-0644(99)70373-2. PMID 10036351.
  2. de Zwaan, C; Bär FW; Wellens HJJ (April 1982). "Characteristic electrocardiographic pattern indicating a critical stenosis high in left anterior descending coronary artery in patients admitted because of impending myocardial infarction". American Heart Journal. 103 (4): 730–736. doi:10.1016/0002-8703(82)90480-X. PMID 6121481.
  3. de Zwaan, C; Bär FW; Janssen JH; et al. (March 1989). "Angiographic and clinical characteristics of patients with unstable angina showing an ECG pattern indicating critical narrowing of the proximal LAD coronary artery". American Heart Journal. 117 (3): 657–665. doi:10.1016/0002-8703(89)90742-4. PMID 2784024.
  4. Haines, DE; Raabe DS; Gundel WD; Wackers FJ (July 1983). "Anatomic and prognostic significance of new T-wave inversion in unstable angina". American Journal of Cardiology. 52 (1): 14–18. doi:10.1016/0002-9149(83)90061-9. PMID 6602539.

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