Medical Definition of Wellen's syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Wellen's syndrome ("the widow maker"): a condition characterized by specific changes in the electrocardiogram (ECG), specifically in the so-called T wave of the ECG. It is also known as LAD coronary T-wave syndrome. It was identified in the 1980s in a group of patients who has specific changes in their ECGs and later developed large myocardial infarctions (MI, heart attack) in the left anterior portion of the heart. When these ECG changes are seen, even if the patient is pain-free, the patient is at risk for a severe heart attack in the coming days to weeks. Wellen's syndrome often goes undiagnosed until the heart attack occurs, which often is fatal. Wellen's syndrome also is referred to as the "widow maker."

Wellen's syndrome is a type of pre-infarction coronary artery disease caused by a stenosis or narrowing of the left anterior descending coronary artery. Symptoms include chest pain typical of coronary artery disease.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018


Muhuram et al. The 'widow maker' electrocardiogram features that should not be missed. Malays Fam Physician. 2013; 8(1): 45–47.

Mattingly, BB, MD. Wellens syndrome. Medscape. Updated: Jan 25, 2018.

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