Three studies have clearly shown that a prolonged QT dispersion (QTD) is the best predictor of cardiac death in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). This was originally believed to be because QTD identified electrical inhomogeneity, but recent data suggests that this is unlikely. The alternative possibility is that QTD is a convenient identifier of hidden but lethal cardiac abnormalities. We explored whether the latter possibility is true by examining exactly what spectrum of cardiac abnormalities, if any, are over-represented in diabetics with a prolonged QTD. Two hundred nineteen patients with type 2 DM who had been first diagnosed with DM 3 to 6 years previously underwent intensive cardiac examinations. Patients with prolonged QTD had a significantly increased incidence of myocardial ischemia and left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy, and to a lesser extent, autonomic dysfunction. The main independent determinant of a prolonged QTD was ischemia, as seen on both ambulatory ST-segment monitoring (p 0.001) and Duke score on treadmill testing (p 0.001). It was also observed that QTD increased progressively as the number of different cardiac abnormalities increased (p 0.001). These studies suggest that QTD is a useful, general prescreening test to select diabetics for more detailed cardiac examinations (especially for ischemia and LV hypertrophy), and that if cardiac examinations were targeted by way of QTD screening, then a high incidence of hidden but treatable cardiac abnormalities could be found.