In certain disease states prolongation of the QT interval has been shown to be arrhythmogenic. Whether QTc interval changes with position and thus whether certain positions are more arrhythmogenic than others is not known for different diseases that predispose to arrhythmias, and was therefore studied. Patients with left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure, and the appropriate matched controls, were recruited. Subjects were studied in the lying, sitting, standing and squatting positions and had QT intervals determined by computer algorithm 2 min after each position change. After resting, QT interval was determined while the subjects performed maximum handgrip exercise with their dominant hand. QT intervals were rate-corrected using Bazett's method. QTc interval is prolonged in heart failure patients compared with either left ventricular hypertrophy or control subjects in the lying and sitting position, but not in the standing or squatting position. The QTc intervals for heart failure and control subjects were, respectively, 443+/-7 ms versus 421+/-6 ms when lying (P<0.05), 451+/-10 ms versus 419+/-6 ms when sitting (P<0.05), 429+/-10 versus 414+/-7 ms when standing (P not significant) and 437+/-10 versus 419+/-8 ms when squatting (P not significant). The values for patients with hypertrophy did not differ from control values. Maximum handgrip does not affect the QTc interval in heart failure, but prolongs it in both the hypertrophy and control groups. Position and static exercise are important modifiers of QTc interval and their effect depends on the condition of the left ventricle.