Behcet's disease, which was originally described by Hulusi Behcet in 1937, is a generalized chronic inflammatory disease characterized by recurrent oral and genital ulcerations, ocular and dermal manifestations. Cardiac manifestations include pericarditis, myocarditis, conduction system disturbances, coronary arteritis, mitral valve insufficiency, dilated cardiomyopathy, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. There is little knowledge about the mechanism of ventricular arrhythmias in Behcet's disease. In this study, we examined the value of dispersion of ventricular repolarization as a diagnostic tool to assess the risk for ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in Behcet's disease. We examined 38 patients (age:34+/-4.6 years, 20F, 18M) with Behcet's disease and 30 age-matched healthy subjects were selected to serve as the control group. Repolarization dispersion parameters were calculated as the difference between maximal and minimal values of QT, QT(c), JT and JTC from 12-lead ECG recordings at 25 or 50 mm/s. We found QT(d), QT(c-d), JT(d) and JT(c-d) intervals of 60.65 +/- 16.1, 78.45 +/- 11.4, 71.51 +/- 18.3 and 92.33 +/- 15.4 ms in Behcet's disease patients, these values in control subjects were 40.1 +/- 9.7, 56.36 +/- 7.5, 41.66 +/- 4.3 and 53.92 +/- 9.2 ms respectively (p<0.001). Striking increases in QT and JT dispersion indicating regional inhomogeneity of ventricular repolarization were noted in patients with Behcet's disease. This new finding suggests a possible explanation for the presence of ventricular arrhythmias in patients with Behcet's disease. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.